Patients who suffer from progressive keratoconus face the prospect of gradually dimming vision, as well as multiple corneal transplant surgeries to replace a thinning, cone-shaped cornea.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved an effective treatment that, while new to American patients, has been used by eye surgeons in Europe for nearly two decades. It’s called corneal crosslinking, and it repairs the cornea by stimulating collagen production in corneal tissue. The experienced ophthalmologists of Mack Eye Center have performed hundreds of these procedures, providing new hope and clear vision to patients who have long struggled with this disabling condition.
During the in-office procedure, riboflavin eyedrops are applied to the surface of the eye. After approximately 30 minutes, during which time the riboflavin fully penetrates the eye, ultraviolet light is targeted on the area to trigger the production of collagen to fortify the cornea, halting the progression of keratoconus and preventing future loss of visual acuity. The “links” that result from crosslinking are the collagen fibers that will grow and strengthen, stabilizing corneal structures.
The Least Invasive Choice
Corneal crosslinking will typically not reverse the effects of keratoconus, but it is the only proven technique for stopping its progression. A corneal transplant is the only other treatment option.
Collagen crosslinking is a less-invasive variation of the similar “epi-off” crosslinking procedure that involves removal of the epithelium, the outer layer of the cornea. Keeping the epithelium intact has the advantage of shortening recovery time and reducing the discomfort you will feel during healing. There is less chance of infection, and less likelihood that you will experience corneal haze or clouding.
Full recovery from the procedure takes several weeks, but you may be able to resume normal activities in a week or less. Your vision will require more time to sharpen, however; and you may experience blurriness for several months. To promote healing, you will wear a soft contact lens for each affected eye and apply antibiotic and steroid drops as your doctor advises. You will also need pain medication for the first few days.
If you would like to know more about collagen crosslinking, schedule an appointment today at Mack Eye Center, conveniently located in Hoffman Estates.