Corneal Collagen Cross- Linking

In July 2011, I was admitted to Queen Victoria Hospital for my first procedure, Corneal Collagen Cross-linking, or C3R, in my left and worst eye.

In hindsight, and to reassure anyone who is due to or thinking of having this, the process really isn’t that bad. The consultant and doctor actually told me during the procedure it’s the most boring of processes for them! I had an ‘Epi-on’ C3R, which means the epithelium of the eye is not removed, and I am told this may be why the pain was not as extreme as I had anticipated.

Basically, the eye is numbed with an anaesthetic, and what I can only describe as a small, toothbrush-sized rod with a needle on the end is used to create a series of pin-prick holes in the epithelium of the cornea. I had about 20, and only felt the needle once, but the consultant numbed my eye more as soon as I flinched. The vision instantly goes hazy, misty, and the eye waters a little.

Next, the nurse applied a syringe of yellow Riboflavin drops to my eye. I remember seeing little wavy lines as it soaked through the holes, which was actually quite cool. Every five minutes for thirty minutes another dose was applied.

My procedure was held up by a previous patient (who they had trouble with calming down for the next bit), but eventually after 45 minutes sitting/lying in a dentist-like chair, I was taken into a small room where I was laid down.

The worst part was next, and to be honest, in the big scheme of things, in a world of complex and painful ops, is child’s play. A brace is applied to the eye to prevent blinking. It seems to go into the eye somehow, and it’s quite uncomfortable, but then it does its job well and you cannot blink for the life of you. I had a panicky urge to blink at first and fight against the restraint, but then you train your brain not to bother, in a way, and staying calm helps. The eye immediately starts to dry up, and so the main procedure gets underway pretty quickly. More riboflavin is applied to the eye, and an ultraviolet light is positioned directly above the eye. I am told it activates the riboflavin and promotes the creation of new links in the eye over a period of months or years.

After a while, staring into the blue, iridescent light became quite calming. The fact you couldn’t escape it and its all-encompassing nature evoked in me the image of a bright light of heaven (I.e: “come into the light”), but fortunately, the procedure is very safe so no chances of that! Every five minutes the light turned off and alternating red and green LEDs went mad at me, together with a buzzing alarm, changing the scene from one of heavenly peace to that of being abducted by aliens! More drops are applied and the process carries on again, for thirty minutes, at which point the procedure is over. A bandaged lens was applied to promote healing, and I was signed off for a week.

There was a moderate amount of pain in the days after, enough that I couldn’t do a great deal, but after about 4 days it was much better. I wore sunglasses as well which seemed to help.

After the bandage lens was removed I could see as before: no better, no worse aside from being a little cloudy. Directly after my weeks recovery, it was my stag weekend! In Dublin! I was struggling but happy that things were progressing, and went from wearing sunglasses to nothing over the next two weeks. As for my wedding soon after, I wore absolutely nothing (eye-wise!) and the day went without a hitch. It really felt that someone was looking over me, as the dizziness wasn’t too bad either.

I also went back again to Specsavers and got another pair of glasses just before the op in July. The optician told me that they would be really thick on my worst eye, and this would probably be the best they could do spectacle-wise. At first they were a godsend.

3 thoughts on “Corneal Collagen Cross- Linking

  1. I was diagnosed in 2009, and it has been an awful experience. I currently have the RGP hard contact lens, and they hurt so bad. Some nights I just drink myself to sleep.

    • Sorry to hear how hard your experience has been. It is difficult sometimes and I myself had struggled to cope. I would suggest maybe visiting your doctor to help with the anxiety this is brining you and revisiting your optician, as there are alternatives to the RGPs and they need to listen to how much they affect you.

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