Keratoconus is a degenerative eye disorder that impacts between 1 in 500 and 1 in 2000 people worldwide.  Because it is a progressive disease, it is important to take steps that can minimize further damage to your eyes, slowing down the deterioration.  This article looks at different ways you can take care of your eyes on a daily basis if you are affected by keratoconus.

What Is Keratoconus?

The cornea is the clear outside lens of the eye.  Typically, the cornea is smooth and domed, the result of strong collagen fibers that provide it with its structure.  When these fibers are weakened, the cornea begins to bulge, becoming increasingly cone-shaped.  This is referred to as keratoconus and may be the result of an enzyme which degrades the collagen array.  Both the irregular shape and scarring on the exposed high points of the cornea can result in vision problems, such as visual distortion, astigmatism, and increasing nearsightedness.

Wear Sunglasses

Perhaps the simplest thing someone affected with keratoconus can do to prevent further damage is to wear sunglasses, especially when exposed to bright sunlight.  As part of their normal function, cornea cells produce by-products which can damage the surrounding collagen.  Normally antioxidants present in the cornea counteract these byproducts, but in individuals with keratoconus, these antioxidants aren't as readily available.  This may be part of the reason the degeneration began in the first place.  Ultraviolet light can aid in the formation of these inflammatory molecules, meaning that unprotected exposure to sunlight may increase the damage to your cornea.

No Rubbing

Rubbing your eyes may be a telltale sign that it's time for bed.  It's also a potentially harmful way to further weaken your eyes.  Because it could cause more of the collagen array to slip, leading to a further loss of structure, be conscientious about avoiding eye rubbing.

Control Your Allergies

Do you suffer from hay fever?  Does your pet cat make your eyes itch?  If you have keratoconus, ocular allergies that would otherwise be mere annoyances can actually accelerate the damage to your eyes.  Because ocular allergies increase inflammation and lead towards increased eye rubbing, it's important to properly manage your allergies and to use any medications prescribed by your doctor.

Adjust Your Contact Lens Fit

Contact lenses are one of the fundamental ways that keratoconus is treated, because they provide additional support and structure to the cornea.  Unfortunately, a poor-fitting lens increases the likelihood of inflammation, irritation, and physical damage occurring to the eye and further weakening the cornea.  Allowing your doctor to optimize your contact lens fit can help prevent this damage and should be done at least annually because of the ever-changing cornea shape characteristic of keratoconus.

Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle

While eating a healthy diet and not smoking may seem auxiliary to eye shape, incorporating these healthy habits can actually make a big difference.  Antioxidants in foods such as dark leafy vegetables and rich-colored fruits may help prevent further deterioration, while the nicotine in cigarettes may increase the production of collagen-harming enzymes. 

Research into how to permanently halt the progression of keratoconus is on-going, but in the meantime, following the principles in this article can help you take care of your eyes and slow further damage. To find out more, speak with someone like Atlantic Eye Consultant PC - Delianides Aris P MD.