Corneal Collagen Cross-Linking

What Is Corneal Collagen Cross-Linking?
Eric D. Donnenfeld, MD, FAAO

To date, corneal collagen cross-linking (CXL) is the only treatment to successfully halt the progression of keratoconus, an eye disease that weakens the cornea, eventually causing severe vision impairment.

CXL involves the use of riboflavin eye drops (vitamin B2) in combination with ultraviolet (UV) light to promote the growth of collagen cross-links within the cornea, thereby strengthening the cornea and preventing the worsening of the abnormal shape caused by keratoconus.

Long Island eye surgeon Dr. Eric D. Donnenfeld, MD, FAAO, is among the few eye surgeons in the nation to offer this advanced treatment and has helped many CXL patients throughout the Tri-State area preserve their vision. In addition, he has participated in the first United States FDA study for this procedure. Although CXL has not yet been approved in the United States, it is approved in most countries and has been studied for more than 15 years.

CXL with Riboflavin: The Procedure

CXL is performed following the administration of numbing eye drops for maximum patient comfort. Next, the eye's epithelium (the layer of cells that covers the cornea) is gently removed. A specific type of riboflavin eye drops are then administered into the eye, where they are absorbed into the cornea for 30 minutes. The eye is then exposed to UV light for another 30 minutes with additional riboflavin. Finally, antibiotic eye drops are administered and a protective bandage contact lens is applied over the eye.

CXL works to increase the collagen cross-links within the cornea, which are “anchors” responsible for preventing the cornea from bulging out and becoming steep or irregular in shape.

When performed under the care of an experienced eye surgeon, this treatment can postpone the need for corneal transplant surgery and preserve good vision.

Advantages of CXL Therapy

CXL therapy with riboflavin eye drops offers keratoconus patients many benefits, including:

  • Targets the root of the problem
  • Halts the progression of the disease
  • Is minimally invasive
  • Preserves vision
  • Offers long-term benefits
  • Improves vision in 80% of patients

CXL Recovery and Results

Individuals who undergo this treatment are asked to wear a bandage contact lens for three to five days. Adherence to postoperative instructions and use of anti-inflammatory eye drops are essential for the success of the procedure.

Postoperative results become evident within one week and continue to improve over the next three to 12 months. Contact lenses can be worn one month after surgery. Some patients may experience frequent changes in their corrective eyewear prescription until the cornea becomes fully stable. Most patients who undergo this treatment are able to prevent further vision damage from keratoconus. In some cases, vision may improve.

For more information on this leading-edge keratoconus treatment, please schedule a consultation with Dr. Donnenfeld. In addition to performing CXL therapy, Dr. Donnenfeld is also recognized as a top Long Island cataract surgery and LASIK surgery provider.

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