Corneal Cross-Linking (CXL) is an exciting new treatment option for people living with keratoconus. Our ophthalmologists had the privilege of being involved with the initial trials for CXL, and since it has received FDA approval, our team at Virginia Eye Consultants has been thrilled to offer the non-invasive therapy as new hope for those living with this degenerative corneal disease.
Since the addition of CXL to our comprehensive array of eye care solutions, many patients have had questions about the therapy, and whether or not it is right for them. To find answers to frequently asked questions about this innovative treatment for keratoconus, please see the topics below.
What is keratoconus?
Keratoconus is an eye disease that causes the cornea to degenerate over time, often leading to distorted vision. As the condition worsens, the cornea continues to become more irregular in shape, which interferes with your eye’s ability to focus properly. This abnormal curvature also leads to the formation of scar tissue, further affecting your eyesight.
Although glasses or specialty contact lenses can typically restore vision during the beginning stages of keratoconus, the disease may eventually progress to the point of requiring a corneal transplant. Traditionally, this was the most effective method of treating the condition once it had progressed, but now with the arrival of CXL, many patients can potentially avoid the need of a transplant in the future.
What is Corneal Cross-Linking?
Corneal Cross-Linking is a non-invasive treatment therapy for keratoconus. It involves the placement of specially formulated riboflavin drops that are then activated with UVA light. This strengthens the cross-linking of the cornea, helping slow the progression of keratoconus. For some patients, CXL may even improve their vision. Although the therapy has proven highly effective on the right candidates, CXL is not covered by insurance at this time.
Is Corneal Cross-Linking right for me?
If you have been diagnosed with progressive keratoconus, you may be a good candidate for Corneal Cross-Linking. Ultimately, whether or not the procedure is the best option for your condition must be determined during a consultation with your eye professional.
What can I expect during the CXL procedure?
To begin your Corneal Cross-Linking therapy, you will be given a relaxing medication and anesthetic drops to numb the treatment area. This is to ensure you remain comfortable throughout the process since you will be awake. Your doctor will then gently remove the thin outer layer of the cornea (epithelium) to allow for optimal penetration of the specialty eye drops.
The specialty eye drops, which are composed of riboflavin (vitamin B2), are then applied to the cornea. Once your cornea has been able to adequately absorb the drops, UVA light will be used to active the formula. This works to strengthen the cross-linking of the corneal structure, which in turn slows the progression of keratoconus.
The process takes about 30 minutes to one hour to complete. More specific details about your procedure will be discussed during your appointment.
Does it hurt?
Although there is some discomfort associated with the initial recovery after CXL therapy, the treatment process is relatively pain-free due to the anesthetic that is applied. As this numbing agent gradually wears off, you may experience a gritty or burning sensation, which can typically be well-tolerated with oral pain medication and artificial tears.
If you have further questions, or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced eye doctors, please contact us today!