Corneal Crosslinking Treatment for Keratoconus

Corneal cross-linking – also known as CXL is a treatment for keratoconus.  In corneal cross-linking, the cornea is soaked with riboflavin drops. It is then bathed with ultraviolet A (UVA) light, which creates a reaction in the clear corneal tissue called cross-linking.

Cross-linking is not technically a cure for keratoconus. It is used to slow or sometimes stop the progression of the condition and prevent deterioration in vision. In some situations it can defer or prevent the need for a cornea transplant. Corrective lenses (contact lenses or glasses) will still be needed.

According to, keratoconus affects about one in 2,000 people. It usually first appears in individuals in their late teens or early twenties. Corneal cross-linking is ideal for this age group of  young patients.


keratoconus image and normal eye image

Image Source: Charlotte Eye Ear Nose and Throat Associates

Keratoconus is progressive thinning and distortion of the cornea. Doctors do not yet know what causes keratoconus, although in some cases it appears to be genetic. About 1 out of 10 people with keratoconus have a parent who has it, too.

In addition to blurry or distorted vision, keratoconus symptoms can include an increased sensitivity to light and glare, and eye redness or swelling. In later stages, keratoconus symptoms can include nearsightedness orastigmatism, and an inability to wear contact lenses.

Keratoconus can be diagnosed through a routine eye exam.


Q: What is Ribovlavin?
A: Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, is a naturally-occuring, non-toxic photosensitizer. It is often used as an additive in food and pharmaceuticals.

Q: What is ultraviolet A (UVA) light?
A: UVA is one of the three types of invisible light rays given off by the sun and is the weakest of the three.

Q: Will I need to be out of my contact lenses for this process?
A: Yes. Doctors typically ask their patients to stop wearing contact lenses for up to a period of several weeks before surgery. After treatment, patients may not be allowed to wear contacts again for one month.

Q: Will I be awake during the procedure?
A: Yes. patients are typically awake. You will be given relaxing medications and numbing anesthetic drops.

Q: How long does the treatment take?
A: The procedure itself takes about an hour, but you will be at the office for approximately two hours to allow sufficient preparation and recovery time before you return home.

Q: Does the procedure hurt?
A: There is some discomfort during the immediate recovery period, but usually not during the treatment. Immediately following treatment, a bandage contact lens is placed on the surface of the eye to protect the newly treated area. After the numbing drops wear off, there is some discomfort, often described as a gritty, burning sensation. This can be managed with Tylenol and artificial tears. If the pain is severe, oral medications may be used.

Q: What can I expect after the procedure?
A: You may notice a sensitivity to light and may want to wear sunglasses. You may also experience discomfort or the sensation of having a foreign body in the eye. You should not rubt your eyes for the first five days after the procedure. If you experience severe pain in the eye or any sudden decrease in vision, contact your doctor immediately. If your bandage contact lens falls out or becomes dislodged, do not attempt to replace it yourself. Instead, contact your doctor immediately.

A consultation with a cornea doctor is required to determine if a keratoconus patient is a candidate for cross-linking.

Corneal cross-linking is available in CEENTA’s SouthPark office. To make an appointment, with a cornea specialist, call 704-295-3000.