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What is cornea cross-linking surgery?
Corneal cross-linking surgery (CXL), also referred to as corneal collagen cross-linking, is a procedure designed to strengthen the cornea if it has been weakened, usually as a form of keratoconus treatment. Keratoconus is a progressive eye disorder that refers to the thinning and weakening of the cornea causing a bulge-like dome to form on the eye, obstructing vision. This condition typically affects people in their teens and early 20s.
A healthy cornea has “crosslinks” that connect its collagen fibers, keeping it strong enough to retain its normal shape. Corneal cross-linking surgery increases these crosslinks to help the cornea retain its normal shape and prevent further vision loss.
Want to see if corneal cross-linking surgery is right for you? Call 713-797-1010 to speak with our cornea specialist in Houston about setting up an appointment for a consultation.
What to expect from corneal cross-linking surgery
Before deciding to undergo any type of eye or vision surgery, it’s important to be as informed as possible about the ins and outs of the procedure itself, the risk factors, the recovery timeline, and more.
Is corneal cross-linking a major surgery?
At Eye Center of Texas, corneal cross-linking surgery is a minimally invasive, in-office procedure that is not considered a major surgery, and can be performed with minimal steps for preparation.
Before the procedure, patients undergo a thorough eye examination. Your examination will include a variety of standard ophthalmic tests for this type of procedure, as well as general medical tests and a review of your specific medical history.
During the CXL procedure, your ophthalmologist will administer eye-numbing drops before removing the thin, outer layer of the cornea, also called the epithelium. Then, the doctor applies liquid riboflavin (vitamin B2) to the surface of the eye followed by a controlled ultraviolet (UV) light to eliminate the corneal ectasia associated with keratoconus.
How long does corneal cross-linking surgery take?
The length of the procedure depends on if one or both eyes are being worked on. If only one eye is being treated, the procedure will take around an hour to complete — however, if both eyes are being treated at once, the procedure will take approximately an hour and a half.
At the end of the procedure, bandages will be placed over your eyes and your ophthalmologist may administer antibiotics to help with the healing process. Be sure that you have a family member or loved one to drive you home after the procedure as we cannot release patients to drivers from rideshare services.
How long is recovery from CXL surgery?
Regarding recovery from eye surgery, every patient is completely different, so the healing process may vary from person to person. To be on the safe side, we recommend that all patients take a few days off of work and strenuous exercise to rest post-op. On average, patients recover in less than a week and can resume all of their normal activities by that time.
A few things to expect during the healing process include:
Sensitivity to light: Light sensitivity is very common in patients post-op. You should wear protective eyewear like sunglasses if you are going outside and avoid watching television on the first day.
Moderate discomfort: Some patients noted an itching sensation coupled with slight irritation as they heal, which is completely normal. This is especially common within an hour after the procedure or when the numbing sensation of the drops wears off. This discomfort is temporary and should dissolve within a day. If you are still experiencing discomfort after the first week, talk to your ophthalmologist.
Slightly blurred vision: Also known as corneal haze, a few patients reported having slightly blurred vision for a few days following the procedure. Again, this is normal and should subside within the week, but if it doesn’t, contact your ophthalmologist to make sure you’re healing properly.
The risks and precautions of corneal cross-linking surgery
As with any surgical procedure, there are some risks associated with corneal cross-linking surgery. In rare cases, a patient could experience infection, scarring, worsened keratoconus, or loss of sight.
Patients with keratoconus who are looking to receive cross-linking surgery must not have hadLASIK or PRK laser eye surgery, as it creates an unacceptable risk of a poor outcome. For patients with keratoconus, LASIK surgery thins and weakens their corneas further, which can irreversibly destabilize the cornea and accelerate its distortion.
While your eyes are healing, it is very important to wear protective eyewear, avoid eye makeup or eye creams, avoid getting water in your eyes, and avoid rubbing your eyes. Rubbing the eyes may also increase the progression of keratoconus as the vigorous force can cause inflammation which can lead to further thinning and protrusion of the corneas.
The specialists at Eye Center of Texas can determine if corneal cross-linking surgery is right for you
Although corneal cross-linking surgery is a minimally-invasive and safe procedure, choosing to undergo any vision surgery is a big decision. It’s best to go into any scenario being as informed as possible, which is why Eye Center of Texas is here to help every step of the way.
Our leading specialists Dr. Mark L. Mayo and Dr. Edward C. Wade can answer any questions you may have about the ins and outs of corneal cross-linking surgery. Contact Eye Center of Texas today by calling 713-797-1010 or contacting us online to request an appointment today. With Eye Center of Texas, better vision awaits!