Corneal cross linking
Pictured on the left is a healthy cornea and at right is a cornea with keratoconus.
Corneal cross-linking is an in-office procedure to treat a weakened, bulging or warped cornea. Corneal disease or sometimes surgery can harm the collagen that holds the cornea together. Corneal cross-linking helps to bind new collagen fibers together which strengthens and reinforces the cornea.
Patients with keratoconus most often benefit from corneal cross linking. With keratoconus, the cornea thins and changes shape over time. The cornea—normally round—bulges outward until it’s shaped more like a cone. This causes blurry vision and other symptoms. For some people, glasses or specialized contacts can treat their keratoconus. Other patients can benefit greatly from corneal cross linking. While cross-linking does not make your existing corneal bulging and thinning go back to normal, the goal of treatment is to keep keratoconus or ectasia from getting worse. For some people, cross-linking prevents the need for more serious surgery, like a corneal transplant.
Dr. Hack at Southern Eye Associates is one of only a few ophthalmologists in South Carolina performing corneal cross linking.
What to Expect with Corneal Cross-Linking
Cross-linking is an outpatient procedure that is performed in our office. Here’s what to expect:
• While lying down, you will be given drops to numb your eyes.
• Dr. Hack first removes the thin, outer layer of the cornea (epithelium). This allows the medication to reach deeper into the cornea. You should not feel any pain due to the numbing drops.
• Vitamin B (riboflavin) eye drop medicine is applied to the cornea for about 30 minutes.
• Next, a special device shines a focused beam of UV light rays at your cornea for close to 30 minutes. The light activates the riboflavin in the cornea. This helps form new bonds between the collagen fibers in your cornea.
• A bandage contact lens is placed over the eye(s). This helps the cornea heal. The bandage lens is left in place for about a week.
• You may be given antibiotic and steroid drops to help your eye heal.
• Your vision will be very blurry at first but should gradually improve within two to three weeks.
• Most people are able to get back to their normal daily activities within 1-2 weeks of cross-linking.
• After six to eight weeks, your doctor will likely refit your glasses or hard contact lenses.