(NaturalNews) One of 2,000 people in the U.S. is diagnosed each year with keratoconus, a vision-robbing disease usually first spotted during the teenage years. The cause isn't understood, but it is known to damage the collagen fibers that form the structure of the cornea (the outer surface of the eye). It's the cornea that allows the eye to focus properly. As keratoconus worsens over time, the cornea degenerates and becomes thinner, bulges outwards and makes clear vision impossible. Standard treatments for the disease in the U.S. include specialized eyeglasses, hard contact lenses, and implanted lenses. However, none of these can permanently correct keratoconus. Severe cases often require corneal transplants, which are not only expensive but may not always "take."
But now there is a stunning development that may soon change this outlook for those suffering from this eye disease. At the 115th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology currently underway in Orlando, Florida, scientist Paolo Vinciguerra, MD, just announced the results of a study showing a vitamin-based treatment that may permanently cure keratoconus in many people.
The new treatment, which has already proven effective in Europe and other parts of the world, is called collagen crosslinking and involves applying riboflavin (a B vitamin) to the cornea, which is then exposed to a specific form of ultraviolet light. The results? Collagen fibers regenerate with new bonds forming between them, increasing the strength and stiffness of the cornea.
B vitamin may be permanent cure
The treatment not only has a high success rate in restoring vision, but it also actually combats the causes of keratoconus -- the degeneration of collagen -- and reduces the odds the eye disease will ever return.
Results of Dr. Vinciguerra's clinical trial in Milan, Italy, showed the vitamin treatment improved vision in approximately 70 percent of patients. Dr. Vinciguerra's new study confirmed that adverse effects are rare and the procedure seems to be extraordinarily safe. The treatment is currently in clinical trials in the United States and is expected to receive FDA approval in 2012.
In an American Academy of Ophthalmology session entitled "Long-term Results of Corneal Crosslinking for Keratoconus", Dr. Vinciguerra described the treatment of more than 250 keratoconus patients who received the collagen crosslinking at his clinic. Sixty-eight percent of the 500 eyes treated gained significant visual acuity. What's more, these improvements remained stable at the end of a 3 year follow-up period.
"For many people with keratoconus, collagen crosslinking can provide a better and more permanent solution to their vision problems," Dr. Vinciguerra said in a media statement. "Given that no current treatment in use in the U.S. offers permanent correction, this effective option represents a significant advance for corneal medicine."