The cornea is the “window” at the front of your eye that helps focus incoming light for clear vision. Collagen is an essential protein that holds the cornea together. Collagen fibers form strong chemical bonds with nearby structures in the cornea, and when these links are weakened by disease or injury, the cornea warps and bulges. Vision abnormalities such as blurred vision, double vision and even vision loss can occur, but collagen crosslinking stiffens the cornea to reduce the bulging shape and preserve your eyesight.
Collagen Crosslinking Candidates
Our Ophthalmologists at St. Michael’s Eye & Laser Institute in Largo perform collagen crosslinking for patients with keratoconus or ectasia after LASIK, both rare. Keratoconus typically affects people between the ages of 10 and 25. The disease causes corneal thinning that slowly changes your cornea’s smooth, round contour to a bulging cone-like shape. Contact lenses or prescription glasses may improve your vision, but corneal crosslinking or corneal transplant surgery may be necessary in some cases to prevent vision loss. Collagen crosslinking is the standard of care for keratoconus worldwide.
Keratoconus symptoms include:
- Light sensitivity
- Double images
- Blurry vision
- Distorted images
- Difficulty seeing in low light environments
- Vision loss
Ectasia is a rare LASIK complication. The LASIK procedure creates a flap using the outermost layer (epithelium) of your cornea, which folds back for the laser to reshape the surface. The flap is placed back when the laser is finished, but the tissue removal sometimes weakens the cornea and leads to a cone-like bulge like keratoconus.
Collagen crosslinking can reinforce and strengthen the fibers in your cornea to prevent worsening symptoms.
Corneal Crosslinking Procedure Details
Collagen crosslinking “links” new fibers together in the cornea to stiffen the structure to stall or prevent the progression of keratoconus or ectasia and preserve your remaining vision. The FDA-approved procedure is minimally invasive and begins with numbing drops. A thin layer of the epithelium is removed to ensure maximum absorption of riboflavin eye drops (Vitamin B12), which are then applied continuously for 30 minutes. One of our Ophthalmologists will evaluate the progress to make sure enough riboflavin is absorbed by your eye(s).
A specialized device shines a focused beam of UV light rays at the cornea for an additional 30 minutes. UV light activates the riboflavin and promotes new bonds between the collagen fibers in the cornea. Collagen cross-linking takes about an hour in the surgical suite. A lens placed over the treated eye(s) for a week acts as a bandage while you heal.
Corneal Crosslinking Recovery
You may have some discomfort such as burning, itching or stinging in the eye for a few days after your procedure. You’ll be given prescription eye drops to use for several weeks. These will help ease any pain or discomfort you experience, and the bandage contact lens will help during your recovery too. Blurry vision is expected for several days and will improve around a week after removing the bandage lens.
Don’t touch or rub your eyes, keep water away from the eyes and avoid eye makeup and smoky or dusty environments. Most people who have collagen cross-linking for keratoconus or ectasia can return to work and drive within the first week of .
When you’ve healed fully, our Ophthalmologists will refit you for glasses or contact lenses.
Collagen crosslinking does not restore your vision or contour the cornea. The goal is to prevent the condition from worsening and avoid a more invasive procedure such as a cornea transplant.
Contact St. Michael’s Eye & Laser Institute
If you’ve been diagnosed with keratoconus or ectasia, contact St. Michael’s Eye & Laser Institute to discuss your treatment options with collagen cross-linking.