Study Identifies Risk Groups For Keratoconus

Maria A. Woodward, MD Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48105

Dr. Woodward Interview with:
Maria A. Woodward, MD

Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48105 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Woodward: The research was sparked by questions whether changes to the eye with keratoconus affect other parts of the body.  There is conflicting information from past research about connections between systemic diseases and keratoconus.  This creates confusion for patients and for doctors treating these patients.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Woodward: If you’re male, African-American or Latino, or you have asthma, sleep apnea or Down syndrome, your odds of having keratoconus are much higher.

But if you’re female, Asian or have diabetes, you may actually have a lower risk of keratoconus.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Woodward: The next step is to perform a study of patients with keratoconus over time and record health information and laboratory data to better understand why people are at risk for these diseases.

MedicalResearch: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dr. Woodward:

  1. We looked at other chronic conditions thought to be associated with keratoconus – such as allergic rhinitis, mitral valve prolapse, collagen vascular disease, aortic aneurysm and depression – and found no higher odds of the condition.
  2. We would like to highlight that people with Down syndrome had a much higher chance of having keratoconus – six times higher than others – a known risk but still a stark one. This reinforces the high importance of screening and treatment for the condition in members of the Down syndrome community, starting at a young age.
  1. Because we used insurance data, we can only see associations of conditions recorded on medical bills, and not cause and effect.  We also can’t tell which of the people had other risk factors for keratoconus, such as eye rubbing or a family history of the condition.

But in all, we hope the results from this largest clinical study to date of keratoconus will be useful to eye health professionals, and beyond.


The Association Between Sociodemographic Factors, Common Systemic Diseases, and Keratoconus

Woodward, Maria A. et al. Ophthalmology , Volume 0 , Issue 0 

December 17, 2015

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Maria A. Woodward, MD (2016). Study Identifies Risk Groups For Keratoconus