Referred to as CXL, corneal crosslinking is a minimally invasive procedure providing treatment for those dealing with vision-destroying keratoconus. It can stop or slow down the progression of this eye disease. Here the top eye specialists at Atlanta Vision Cataract and Laser Center provide answers to the most common patient questions about corneal crosslinking.
What Is Keratoconus?
This hereditary condition, often called a conical cornea, affects the cornea’s structure. The cornea weakens, and the result is vision loss. Keratoconus is found in approximately one in 2,000 people. There is no known way to prevent the disease. Symptoms generally begin in adolescence and progress into our 30s.
- Problems with night vision
- Halos or glare around lights
- Light sensitivity
- Sudden vision cloudiness
Rigid gas permeable contact lenses are worn to improve vision in keratoconus cases, with glasses worn only in the beginning stages of the disease. Substantial vision loss from keratoconus may result in the need for a corneal transplant. Keratoconus is the primary driver of corneal transplants in the U.S.
What Is Corneal Crosslinking?
CXL strengthens the cornea. Ultraviolet rays and Vitamin B-12 eye drops are used to strengthen the collagen fibers in the cornea. Corneal crosslinks — the cornea’s fibrous structural support — eventually develop, and the cornea grows stronger.
While the procedure was recently approved in the U.S., it has been available in other countries for over a decade. Before CXL’s approval by the FDA, those suffering from keratoconus had no surgical treatment options.
The surgery takes about an hour, and the patient is awake but mildly sedated. It is not a painful process. The clear layer of protective tissue covering the cornea known as the epithelium is removed. The eye drops are placed in the eye and the patient looks at an ultraviolet light during the session.
One year post-surgery, 90 percent of eyes treated show that keratoconus has stopped. About half of all patients report vision improvement.
Who Is a Candidate for CXL?
A person diagnosed with keratoconus whose condition is considered high-risk or whose corneal scans show it is worsening is a good candidate for CXL.
Are Risks Involved?
CXL is usually considered safe. As with any procedure, there are potential risks involved. These include:
- Blurred vision
- Corneal opacity
- Corneal striae – white lines in the vision field
- Herpetic or infectious keratitis
- Ulcerative keratitis – a severe eye infection
What Is Recovery Like?
Patients often describe a gritty feeling. Most people can return to their normal activities within a day of treatment.
If you are experiencing symptoms of keratoconus and would like additional information about corneal crosslinking, contact the eye care specialists at Atlanta Vision Cataract and Laser Center to schedule a consultation. After diagnosis, we will discuss your treatment options and answer all of your questions.