What is Corneal Cross-linking?

Corneal collagen cross-linking is a minimally invasive procedure which uses ultraviolet light and eye drops containing riboflavin (vitamin B2) to strengthen chemical bonds in the cornea (the clear tissue on the front of the eye). The goal of the treatment is to halt the progression of corneal thinning and strengthen the cornea.
The FDA approved corneal cross-linking in 2016 for the treatment of keratoconus and corneal thinning related to refractive surgery. It’s the only treatment, to date, that can stop the condition from progressing. It may help patients avoid more invasive surgery, such as a corneal transplant.

What to expect

  • You’ll be given a mild sedative medication and numbing drops will be applied to your eye.
  • The procedure will take about an hour.
  • Patients typically do not experience any discomfort during the procedure.
  • After the procedure, you may experience increased sensitivity to light, as well as, general discomfort in the affected eye. Some patients describe that discomfort as a gritty, burning sensation. If you experience more severe pain, contact your doctor immediately.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes following the procedure.
Corneal cross-linking


Like some surgeries, corneal cross-linking has potential risks, such as:

  • Eye infection
  • Eye pain or selling
  • Damage to the cornea or epithelium
  • Blurred or hazy vision
  • Before you have the procedure, ask your doctor about potential risks.

Who should get Corneal Cross-linking?

Corneal cross-linking works best if you’ve recently been diagnosed with keratoconus or corneal ectasia.

Keratoconus is a progressive condition in which the clear tissue on the front of the eye (cornea) bulges outward into a cone shape. This bulging causes the vision to become distorted and decreased. In early stages, vision can be corrected with glasses or contacts, but without medical intervention, keratoconus may progress to a state where glasses and contacts will no longer provide adequate vision. Advanced cases of keratoconus may require patients to undergo a corneal transplant.

Corneal ectasia is defined as the thinning of the inner layers of the cornea (clear tissue on the front of the eye) which results in changes to the shape of the corneal tissue. Corneal ectasia is not a disease, but rather a description of abnormalities that develop due to underlying disease or due to complications related to refractive surgery such as LASIK.
Corneal cross-linking does not reverse corneal changes that have already happened, however, it keeps them from getting worse. Your ophthalmologist will determine if this treatment is right for you.

Cost & Coverage

  • Our billing department will verify your coverage and inform you on the benefits your plan offers.
  • Commercial payers determine their own unique reimbursement rates and deem the procedure medically necessary on a case by case basis.
  • For patients who have Medicaid, Medicare, or are uninsured, a financial assistance program is available to help cover the cost of the drug used during the procedure.*
  • Complete verification and approval through insurance and the patient assistance program can take 4-6 weeks to complete.
    For full cost and coverage details, speak with your patient coordinator.

*Patient must be deemed eligible through income verification.

The doctors at Kovach Eye Institute have either authored or reviewed and approved this content.