Laser eye surgery specialist Dr. Andrew Holzman, serving McLean, Charlottesville and Rockville, has become one of a select few practitioners in the United States to offer cross-linking, a revolutionary new treatment for keratoconus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sanctioned Dr. Holzman’s practice as a test site for this procedure, which uses ultraviolet light to strengthen collagen fibers in the cornea. Cross-linking is already available in the European Union. Test sites across the United States, including Dr. Holzman’s practice, are the final step in achieving domestic approval.

Dr. Holzman said: “This exciting new procedure has the potential to change lives. This is the most significant innovation in keratoconus treatment, and it could reduce the number of corneal transplants performed each year by thousands. We are very proud to have been selected to participate in the trial process. “

Keratoconus is a degenerative condition in which the collagen fibers that make up the cornea, or front surface of the eye, begin to break down. As a result, the cornea becomes thinner, and begins to take on a conical shape that compromises vision and increases sensitivity to light. Advanced keratoconus is traditionally treated with a corneal transplant, which uses donor tissue to replace the weakened part of the cornea. Cross-linking is a non-invasive alternative that focuses on repairing existing collagen fibers and generating new collagen.

Cross-linking is performed under a topical anesthetic. Epithelial cells on the corneal surface are gently removed, and riboflavin drops are administered to strengthen collagen and protect other areas of the eye from UV exposure. The patient then looks at the UV light for the next three to eight minutes, which creates free radicals and spurs collagen production. A soft contact lens is then placed over the cornea, acting as a bandage for the next five days. The increased collagen production and strengthening of existing collagen fibers bring the cornea back to its proper shape, restoring quality of vision, comfort, and a normal sensitivity to light.

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