According to Cleveland Clinic ophthalmologist, Dr. William Dupps of the Cole Eye Institute, Keratoconus is a progressive disease usually diagnosed in the teens, but causes vision to worsen by the 20s and 30s.
“It can get so bad the cornea is so distorted you really can’t see through it,” Dr. Dupps says.
It often caused the eye to have a cone like appearance and while hard contact lenses were a crutch, the only resort to save sight was a corneal transplant.
In April 2016 the FDA approved a minimally invasive outpatient procedure known as corneal crosslinking thanks to new technology called KXL system. Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute participated in the clinical trial.
Corneal crosslinking, which has been used around the world since 2006, combines the use of vitamin B2 eye drops and ultra-violet (UV) light which stiffens corneas that have been weakened by keratoconus.
During the procedure vitamin B2 eye drops are applied to the cornea every 2 minutes for at least 30 minutes and the cornea is then exposed to UV light for 30 minutes while additional vitamin B2 eye drops are applied.
At 16, Alex Amos of Richfield was diagnosed with keratoconus in both eyes. The now 26-year old had the procedure done three months ago and says initially his vision worsened, but then dramatically improved.
“Now I’m seeing better than I was before the procedure,” Alex says.
Dr. Dupps says there aren’t a lot of diseases where you can treat the underlying cause and find a cure, but says this is a great example of one that does.
“I feel blessed that it’s not going to get worse, but now to be better than it was is just a dream come true,” Alex says.
Alex says the only drawback is because it’s new, it’s not yet covered by insurance. He paid $2,500 to have one eye done. The vision in the other isn’t bad enough yet to warrant the treatment.
Dr. Dupps sees another future for this procedure. One day he believes it might be combined with Lasik as an extra safety element for eyes with thin corneas. But more research is needed and only certain patients may benefit from the procedure.
Meanwhile, hundreds will walk on May 20th to support research to prevent vision loss.
The Cleveland Vision Walk is Saturday May 20th at Cleveland MetroParks- Edgewater Park. Registration begins at 9:00 a.m. and the walk begins at 10:30 a.m.
To learn more click HERE.