corneal cross-linking

The loss of sight can be devastating for anyone. However, people from all over the world continue to suffer from different conditions that can lead to blindness.  One such condition is Keratoconus; a degenerative eye disease. The disease will attack from as early as the age of 14. The disease is progressive and requires early treatment so that it does not worsen. As an individual, you want to continue to enjoy good health and good eyesight. Keratoconus can take this away, but with corneal cross-linking treatment, there is hope.

Understanding Keratoconus

Keratoconus will attack the cornea, which you can think about as the windshield of the eyes. The cornea has a dome shape which may bulge if the structure is not strong enough. The process of bulging is what is known as keratoconus. The cornea will eventually take the shape of a cone.

Keratoconus affects how light enters the eyes. Anyone suffering from the condition will, therefore, experience blurring, halos, glares or streaking of light during the night. If the condition worsens, it will lead to scarring, tearing, and swelling of the cornea.

The disease typically starts in the teenage years up to the age of 30. Those in their forties may get it, but it is not as common at this age. The rate of progression is different for everyone. For some, it happens quickly; for others, it may take a longer time. Some people may only have damage in one eye, but eventually, it will attack the other one as well.

What Causes Keratoconus?

The structure of the cornea consists of collagen or tiny fibers that help anchor the cornea in place.  Certain conditions may lead to the weakening of the fibers resulting in the bulging of the cornea.  If there is a decrease in the oxidants that protect the cornea, the cells will produce certain by-products. The role of the antioxidants is to maintain a clean environment, and without them, the by-products will attack the collagen, thereby weakening the fibers.

Is The Condition Hereditary?

Research indicates that keratoconus may run in the family. You should, therefore, be keen on the health of all family members, including the children. From as early as ten years, you should schedule regular checks with your eye doctor.  People with allergies and some medical issues may see a faster progression of the disease.

Corneal Cross-Linking for Keratoconus

Patients who have undergone corneal cross-linking have seen a marked improvement in their overall vision. The treatment halts the progression of the disease. The procedure will work well for anyone who has had a recent diagnosis of keratoconus. While it will not change what has already happened to the cornea, it will halt the progression of the disease.

How to Prepare For the Treatment

During your pre-treatment consultation, your doctor should be able to advise you on what you need to do. Some doctors will, for example, tell you not to wear contact lenses for a couple of weeks before you go in for the treatment.  You may also need to avoid certain foods and medicines.

On the day of the procedure, avoid wearing any makeup, aftershave, or perfume.  The doctor may allow you to consume a light meal before the procedure. You may need to have someone with you to drive you back home because the treatment will temporarily affect your eyesight.

The Cross-Linking Treatment Procedure

The best part about the procedure is that it takes a very short time, usually an hour or less. You will be awake through the entire procedure. Most patients say that they do not experience any discomfort during the process.  The doctor will numb your eyes using special anesthetic eye drops. Depending on your ophthalmologist, you may also get preoperative antibiotics. The doctor will then peel-back the epithelium, which covers the cornea in the process known as the Epi-off technique. The main aim of doing this is to ensure that your eyes absorb the medication better. However, this technique does come with its risks, including infections and swelling of the cornea.

The doctor will then administer vitamin B2 or riboflavin straight into the cornea.  You will get the drops in intervals of 1 to 5 minutes for about 15 to 30 minutes. The vitamin B2 will help the cornea absorb light better. The next step is the ultraviolet treatment. You will need to stare straight into the UV light for about 30 minutes.

The combination of the ultraviolet light and the riboflavin will strengthen the cornea.  What it does is increase the chemical links between the eyes and fiber, leading to a stronger corneal structure. The treatment will effectively stop the bulging from worsening.

What Happens After The Treatment?

After the UV light treatment, the doctor will give you antibiotic drops and place contact lenses over the cornea. You may experience a stinging sensation after the anesthesia wears off.  You may also feel like you have something stuck in your eye. Under no condition should you rub your eyes. The doctor will most likely prescribe artificial tears, or pain relievers to help with the side effects.

Call your doctor if you feel the pain getting too intense, severe, or sudden. If the contact lens falls out, call the doctor; do not try to replace it on your own. You will need to continue with the antibiotic treatment for another 3 to 4 days, or as per their doctor’s instructions.

What Can You Expect With Regard To Your Vision After The Treatment?

Initially, your eyesight will be blurry because of the treatment process. Once the cornea starts to heal, you will become very sensitive to light for up to three months post-surgery, your vision may not be perfect. However, with time, your eyesight may get better.

Managing Expectations

Corneal cross-linking has the goal of stopping the progression of the disease. While some people do experience better vision after the treatment, it will not be the same for everyone. You may need to continue wearing glasses or contact lenses to help with your vision. You must have a very candid conversation with your ophthalmologist so that they can explain the procedure correctly. You must also do your research so that you equip yourself adequately before undergoing surgery.

The earlier you go in for treatment after the diagnosis of keratoconus, the better the chances of protecting the cornea from further damage.

Are There Any Risks

Like any other medical procedure, there are certain risks that you need to be aware of.   However, medical studies show that treatment has low risks and complications. Some of the possible side effects include: –

  • Eye infections
  • Pain or swelling
  • Damage to the epithelium or cornea
  • Vision problems

Your doctor will tell you how to take care of your eyes well after the operation, to avoid any side effects. You must also ensure that you finish the antibiotic treatments as per the doctor’s prescription to prevent any infections.

Talk to Us Today

You must take good care of your eyes so that you can continue to enjoy good vision for as long as you possibly can.  Conditions such as keratoconus, which we have discussed in detail above, can rob you of your vision. You must, therefore, ensure that you see an eye specialist to check for any signs of diseases. Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute are here to help. We have highly qualified specialists who will take care of you. We have the experience, having started operations in 1981, and use the latest technology to ensure that you get the best treatment.

Our facility is in the Tampa area, and you can talk to us today to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced eye doctors.