What Is Corneal Cross-Linking?

May 11th, 2018
doctor examining patient eye

If left untreated, keratoconus can lead to significant changes in your vision. Corneal cross-linking can stop it in its tracks.

Many common vision problems stem from defects in the cornea, the structure in the eye that’s responsible for refracting light. In some cases, the corneas take the shape of a cone, leading to a condition called keratoconus.

Like more common conditions such as nearsightedness and astigmatism, keratoconus initially results in blurred vision and eye strain. But left untreated, keratoconus can cause permanent damage to the cornea, further distorting the patient’s eyesight. Fortunately, recent treatments such as corneal cross-linking can provide effective relief to keratoconus patients for years to come.

The Procedure

Keratoconus is usually treated with glasses or contacts, but in some cases, it’s best addressed with a minimally invasive procedure or corneal transplants. In recent years, corneal cross-linking has emerged as a viable alternative to these traditional solutions.

Corneal cross-linking is a minimally invasive procedure designed to eliminate the need for corneal transplants or other surgical measures. During the procedure, an eye care specialist applies drops to the eyes for about thirty minutes before casting ultraviolet light on the eye. When combined with UV light, riboflavin forges new cross-links in the cornea’s collagen fibers, resulting in a stronger cornea while arresting the progress of keratoconus.


Recovery from corneal cross-linking is a fairly simple process. In the days after the procedure, you’ll administer anti-inflammatory eye drops and a topical antibiotic as needed to minimize any pain and ward off infection. You may also need to wear a bandage contact lens to limit your exposure to light.

Most patients will some experience slight discomfort or irritation, but these symptoms should subside within several weeks, and your vision should completely stabilize within three months. Bear in mind, however, that you’ll likely need to continue wearing contacts or glasses since corneal cross-linking isn’t designed to alter the shape of the cornea.

Whether you’re currently suffering from keratoconus or simply want to devise a more effective course of treatment, the specialists at Swagel Wootton Eye Institute can help you find lasting relief. Schedule an appointment with us today at our Mesa or Chandler locations to explore possible treatments and find the ideal solution for your condition.

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