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 that can develop in your teenage years. The disease is progressive and requires early treatment so that it does not worsen. Cross-linking is a wonderful advancement in the field of keratoconus, which can often prevent a corneal transplant later in life. 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.
Keratoconus affects the “the windshield of the eye” and causes the normally round cornea to bulge into a cone-like shape. The bulging structure of the cornea may begin to thin or weaken. The cornea will eventually take the shape of a cone, which can interrupt how light enters the eye. Anyone suffering from the condition can experience blurring, halos, glares or streak of light during the night. If the condition worsens, it will lead to scarring, tearing, and swelling of the cornea.
The disease can be found to be very progressive in the teenage years up through adulthood. The rate of progression is different for everyone. For some, it happens very sudden and for others, it may take a longer time. Some people may only have damage in one eye, but eventually, it can develop in the other eye 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.
Research indicates that keratoconus may run in the family. You should, therefore, be keen on the health of all family members, including the children. Early and regular eye exams are the best method of preventing any underlying eye conditions from getting worse. People with allergies and some medical issues may see a faster progression of the disease. Constant rubbing of the eyes can lead to the progression of keratoconus.
Corneal Cross-Linking for Keratoconus
Patients who have undergone corneal cross-linking have seen a marked improvement in their overall vision. If a candidate, cross-linking is a great resource 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.
During your initial consultation, your doctor should be able to advise you on procedural outcomes and expectations. Some doctors will advise not to wear contact lenses for a couple of weeks before your consultation and treatment. You may also need to avoid certain foods and be required a medication hold. 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 procedure itself does not take long at all, usually about an hour. You will be awake through the entire procedure. Most patients report that they do not experience any discomfort during the process. The doctor will numb your eyes using special eye drops. 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.
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 likely prescribe artificial tears, or pain relievers to help with the side effects.
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. 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.
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 can rob you of your vision and lead to the need for more drastic treatment plans if not detected early. Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute is here to help. We have highly qualified cornea specialists who have the experience and training needed to treat this condition.
Cross-Linking consultations are available at our Brandon and South Tampa offices. Talk to us today to schedule an appointment with our team.