What is Corneal Cross-Linking? - Herschel LASIK and Cataract Institute

What is Corneal Cross-Linking?


Do you have keratoconus? It can be a frustrating condition that makes your vision slowly worsen over time.

There are several keratoconus treatment options. Many focus on correcting your vision rather than preventing it from worsening further.

But there is a highly effective treatment that can slow and may even stop keratoconus from progressing further. It’s a treatment called corneal cross-linking.

So what is corneal cross-linking, and how does it treat keratoconus? Keep reading to learn more about keratoconus, how it changes your cornea’s shape, and how corneal cross-linking can help!

What is Keratoconus?

Keratoconus is a condition that affects the cornea. The cornea is the clear part of the eye found at the front.

The cornea is what light refracts through when it passes through your eye. When the cornea is misshapen, light doesn’t refract correctly.

The misshapenness of the cornea causes blurry vision. If you have a refractive error like nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, you’ll have blurry vision.

Keratoconus is not a refractive error. Instead, it changes the shape of the cornea more and more over time.

The condition causes the cornea to thin and gradually begin to bulge outwards. This makes the cornea more cone-shaped than dome-shaped.

The name keratoconus explains its meaning: the suffix “conus” indicates the cone shape, and the prefix “kerato” means cornea.

The more cone-shaped your cornea becomes, the worse your vision becomes, as light can’t refract properly through your cornea. It’s unclear what causes keratoconus.

What’s known is that it can affect anyone at any age. However, you may be more likely to develop the eye condition if you have a family history of keratoconus.

Frequent eye-rubbing is also associated with the condition. If you already have keratoconus, rubbing your eyes increases the condition’s progression.

Treatment for keratoconus may involve special contacts and implants that help correct the shape of the cornea or compensate for it. Corneal cross-linking is the best treatment for preventing further bulging and changes to the shape of the cornea.

What is Corneal Cross-Linking?

Corneal cross-linking is an advanced form of keratoconus treatment. It’s minimally invasive and can effectively slow or halt the progression of the condition.

Other keratoconus treatments aim to help patients see better, with some able to improve the cornea’s shape slightly. However, most treatments are ineffective at keeping the cornea from bulging more.

Corneal cross-linking prevents the cornea from further bulging and changes its shape by strengthening it. The treatment is usually best when used with other treatments, especially if you have an advanced case of keratoconus.

Corneal cross-linking cannot reverse vision loss from keratoconus. Even if you undergo the treatment, you may still need implants or special contacts to see appropriately.

Undergoing Corneal Cross-Linking Treatment

Corneal cross-linking treatment is a minimally invasive procedure performed on an outpatient basis. There are no surgical incisions required, meaning you’ll be able to recover very quickly.

Before the corneal cross-linking procedure begins, you’ll have your eyes numbed with eye drops. After the eye drops spread over the surface of your eye, you’ll have the epithelium of your eye removed with a chemical scrub.

The epithelium is the thin, protective layer over your cornea. Removing the epithelium ensures the corneal cross-linking treatment can make its way deep inside your cornea.

Once your ophthalmologist removes the epithelium, they will put more eye drops directly onto your eye. These eye drops are from a chemical called riboflavin, also called vitamin B.

After the riboflavin disperses and soaks into the eye, you’ll have a special device that emits a UV light placed over the eye. UV light activates the riboflavin, allowing it to strengthen your cornea.

The treatment takes around 30 minutes to complete. Because your eyes are numb, you won’t feel any pain. After completing corneal cross-linking, you’ll have a bandage contact lens placed over your eye.

The contact acts like a bandage while the epithelium heals. It takes two weeks for the epithelium to regenerate. During that time, you can go about your daily activities with the bandage contact lens in place.

How Corneal Cross-Linking Works

Now that you better understand corneal cross-linking, it’s time to discuss how the treatment works. First, you should know that your cornea and many parts of your body are made of tiny fibers linked together.

The fibers are from a protein called collagen. Collagen is a tissue that connects other tissues.

It’s a significant component of your bones, skin, cartilage, tendons, and muscles. Without collagen, your body can’t function properly, as it makes up 30% of your body’s total protein.

Although the exact cause of keratoconus is still unknown, it’s understood that the cornea thins and bulges when bonds that link collagen fibers break down. Corneal cross-linking strengthens the cornea by creating more bonds between collagen fibers.

When UV light activates it, the riboflavin adds more bonds to the fibers. Increasing the number of bonds to the fibers helps them stay together better.

With more bonds keeping them together, these fibers are harder to break apart. When the fibers are harder to break apart, it’s harder for the cornea to continue to bulge or be misshapen.

The effectiveness of corneal cross-linking can vary. It can significantly slow down how much the cornea bulges for many patients.

For patients with keratoconus, a treatment like corneal cross-linking is worth considering. At the very least, it can help stop vision from worsening further due to keratoconus.

Do you have keratoconus? Find out if corneal cross-linking could help your symptoms by requesting an appointment with the team at Herschel LASIK & Cataract Institute in Orlando, FL, today! Isn’t it time to see if there are other options for treating keratoconus?

Those who know choose Herschel LASIK and Cataract Institute

Beautiful office. Amazing and caring staff. Getting my surgery done Saturday and the Doctor and the staff helped choose the right option for me and I didn't feel pushed to commit. One of the only few who commits the patient to a dry eye treatment as per my research. Post-surgery I hope to keep my 5 star rating because I have nothing bad to say!

Yogi Nayyar (Google), February 2020

I recently did my LASIK procedure about 1 week ago and was completely blown away from beginning to end with the SERVICE received from the entire staff at Herschel LASIK. The office is beautifully decorated and the staff was always professional, personable, knowledgeable and friendly. I particularly enjoyed the way that everything was explained clearly before, during and after my procedure and questions were always encouraged and answered. My experience was the best encounter to date with a physician. Excellent doctor + excellent support staff +excellent service = excellent experience and a happy customer. Thank you so much Dr. Herschel, Doris and Francesca.

Vernicia Sturrup (Google), September 2019

Great service, sometimes a bit of a wait, but I take a full lobby as a sign of a well recommended doctor. Staff is friendly & quick to answerphones & squeeze me in when I got an eye problem. Would definitely recommend them to anyone wanting to get LASIK. Doctor even personally called to check on me the night after my procedure.

Stephanie G. (Yelp), January 2020

I got my LASIK procedure done here. I was apprehensive, mostly because anything to do with my eyes kind of freaked me out.
I went under a free consultation. The nurses/assistants were very nice and they answered any questions I had. Then I met Dr. Herschel and he was very nice and understanding. He explained all that would happen, how everything works, how long recovery will be, everything.
So, I agreed and start the process. I love the fact you always meet with Dr. Herschel at every appointment.
I now have 20/20 vision.
I'd highly recommend going to him for all of your vision needs.

Kelsea K. (Yelp), November 2019

Great surgeon and great staff. Do your research, Dr. Herschel is more than just a LASIK surgeon. He is certified and specializes in all areas of eye surgery so have peace of mind that you are getting one of the best. They use current technology and machines. More so, if your eyes aren’t ready for surgery he has no problem delaying 1-2 weeks until they are 100% good-to-go. He will not risk your health for the sake of money.

Dave T. (Yelp)
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