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How Does Corneal Cross-Linking Work?

Your eyes should have slightly rounded corneas. If you have keratoconus, the region begins to bulge and thin.

Nearly one in five people with the condition need a corneal transplant. Many have this procedure within 20 years of receiving their diagnosis.

Corneal cross-linking is one option for treating the early stages of this progressive condition. Keep reading to find out more about corneal cross-linking works and if it could be right for you!

What is Corneal Cross-linking?

Keratoconus weakens the eyes. As the condition develops, the corneas stiffen. The lens cannot flex to focus your vision at different distances. You may need glasses or contacts.

If an eye doctor diagnoses you with keratoconus, they’ll likely first treat the condition with visual aids to improve your sight. As keratoconus worsens over time, they may recommend corneal cross-linking therapy.

This non-invasive method is painless and can prevent vision loss from getting worse. It is the most helpful when performed after early diagnosis.

During corneal cross-linking, an eye doctor will give you mild sedation. They’ll apply numbing eye drops and wait for the medication to take effect.

Then, they’ll apply eye drops that contain riboflavin 5’-phosphate sodium. This material is also called vitamin B2.

You may know of this nutrient for its ability to prevent damage from free radicals. It can also lower your risk of cataracts and lens injuries.

Applying liquid B2 creates a photo enhancer. Your eye doctor will apply ultraviolet light to the eye.

The rays stimulate the eye to produce collagen. Collagen is a protein found in the cornea and outer white sclera of the eye.

The light also shortens and thickens the existing collagen. This change makes the cornea stiffer and stronger.

The collagen is patterned like brickwork with stacked rows. Cross-linking forces the creation of more bonds. It’s like adding bricks to a retaining wall.

This procedure takes around an hour to complete, including intake and post-procedure observation. You may feel slight discomfort for a few days after cross-linking. Some people say it feels like there’s sand or dust under their eyelids.

It is also common to develop temporary light sensitivity. Do not rub your eyes for five days after your appointment. The corneas are prone to irritation as they heal.

What are the Benefits?

Corneal cross-linking strengthens the cornea. This process encourages the cornea to grow new collagen fibers. Collagen is one of the main materials that make up the structure of the eye.

Reinforcing the cornea with new fibers prevents the eye from further bulging. You may be able to maintain your current vision after having this outpatient procedure.

Corneal cross-linking also thickens the cornea to prevent injury. It’s harder for irritants like sand or dirt to scratch the cornea and damage deeper layers because of these fibers. The treatment may facilitate faster healing if you experience eye trauma like a scratch.

Envue Eye & Laser Center personalize our services for your eye care needs. Schedule an appointment with us in Oxon Hill, MD to learn more about corneal cross-linking and if it may work for you!

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