Lifewatch: New vitamin eye procedure

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - Gold Medal winning American bobsledder Steve Holcomb was going blind until a breakthrough changed his life.

Steve had keratoconus, a disease that affects the outer lens of the eye.  It weakens it and causes it to bulge out uncontrollably.

"Well the vision was like looking under water, it was too blurry, and you couldn't navigate, you couldn't see where you're going," said Holcomb.

In the past the only answer would have been surgery - a corneal transplant.

Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler told Holcomb he had another choice - a quick, painless procedure in which a vitamin solution is combined with light.

"The cornea is made of these collagen fibers that are like belt straps, and those are weak," said Wachler.

After the vitamin solution is applied, the light is simply painlessly shined on the eye, leading the fibers to swell, strengthen, and form cross links.

"It strengthens up those fibers, so it holds the shape of the cornea now so it won't continue bulging in the future," said Wachler.  "So what we see at the minimum is that it holds and preserves the vision and it can a lot of times improve it by giving a little bit of reversal. You can give patients, 20/20 or close to 20/20 vision."

The procedure only takes about 20 minutes.

"It was painless, it was quick, it was easy, and I laid down and he started working and doing his thing and I had no idea," said Holcomb.  "And has soon as he said, 'Well, we're done,' and that was it and I sat up and sure enough I could see better than I've ever seen before."

C3R is still experimental and is not for everyone.  If you have trouble with your vision, talk to your doctor about what sort of treatment would be right for you.