What is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus is a chronic, progressive ectasia (weakening of the cornea), causing corneal steepening (forming a cone shape), visual distortion, corneal thinning, and corneal scarring. This condition causes irregular astigmatism leading marked visual impairment.
The disease typically affects both eyes, although only one eye may be affected at the onset, and it can be asymmetric. Early in the disease, there may be minimal or no symptoms, whereas in advanced keratoconus there can be profound visual loss, eventually requiring a corneal transplant.
Why Choose Corneal Cross-linking as a Treatment for Keratoconus?
Corneal cross-linking is a minimally-invasive FDA-approved outpatient procedure designed to treat progressive keratoconus (and other conditions that cause a similar weakening of the cornea). The two-step procedure involves application of riboflavin solution to the eye that is activated by illumination with UV-A light for under 30 minutes. The corneal cross-linking procedure strengthens and stabilizes the cornea, which recovers and preserves some of the cornea's mechanical strength. The corneal epithelium (the outermost layer of the cornea) is generally removed to increase penetration of the riboflavin into the stroma (the thickest tissue layer of the cornea). This procedure is known as the Dresden (epithelium-off) protocol.
Corneal cross-linking is most effective if it can be performed before the cornea has become too irregular in shape or there is significant vision loss from keratoconus. If applied early, cross-linking typically will stabilize or even improve the shape of the cornea, resulting in better visual acuity and an improved ability to wear contact lenses. Patients with a diagnosis of keratoconus, or if there is suspicion for the disease, must see one of our fellowship-trained corneal specialists and undergo clinical testing to determine if they are a candidate for the procedure.