What is Keratoconus?

Keratoconus is a progressive eye disease where the front surface of the eye called the cornea becomes thin, causing substantial visual distortion. The eye is normally shaped like a sphere, but with keratoconus, the eye bulges out into a cone-like shape. This may cause irregular astigmatism, progressive myopia, and sensitivity to light and glare. If left untreated, keratoconus may result in the need for cornea transplant surgery. Corneal cross-linking is considered one of the most effective treatments in slowing or halting the progression of keratoconus.

How Does the Cross-Linking Treatment Work?

Cross-linking is a minimally invasive treatment that is designed to strengthen the cornea for patients suffering from degenerative corneal diseases such as keratoconus and corneal ectasia. The cross-linking treatment utilizes controlled applications of ultraviolet light and riboflavin (vitamin B2) drops to rebuild collagen. By rebuilding new corneal-collagen bonds, the collagen fibrils become shorter and thicker which stiffens and strengthens the cornea.

The FDA-approved Avedro corneal cross-linking treatment is an “epithelium-off” treatment, which means the thin, outer layer of the cornea called the epithelium is removed prior to the treatment using a dilute chemical solution. Removing the epithelium allows the riboflavin liquid to more easily penetrate the corneal tissue.

Recovery After Cross-Linking Treatment

Prior to the treatment, patient’s eyes will be numbed and an oral sedative such as valium will be offered to help the patient relax. The in-office treatment takes approximately 60-90 minutes, and is performed one eye at a time. After the treatment, the doctor will place a contact lens on the eye to act as a bandage as the epithelium heals. Your vision will be very blurry for the first 5 days after the treatment, and you may experience pain, irritation and light sensitivity for the first 3-5 days. You will need to take at least 3-5 days off of work. New glasses or contact lenses are usually re-fit around 3 months after the treatment. Your doctor will prescribe some medicated eye drops that you will need to take for a period of weeks after the surgery to help with healing, comfort, and to prevent infection.

To learn more about corneal cross-linking or to schedule an examination with one of our cornea specialists, please call our office at (801) 266-2283.

The Eye Institute of Utah Doctors have either authored or reviewed and approved this content.