Eye patients at The James Cook University Hospital can now undergo a procedure to strengthen their cornea at the Middlesbrough hospital.
This advanced procedure, known as corneal collagen cross-linking, is used to treat a progressive corneal condition called Keratoconus which affects young people.
Previously patients requiring this treatment would have had to travel to York, Leeds or Sunderland.
Keratoconus can start in patients as young as 13 and can progress until the patient is around 30. It affects both eyes and makes vision very blurred as it changes the shape of the cornea. If left untreated the eye can deteriorate to the point where patients require corneal transplant surgery.
Consultant Ophthalmologist Mr Trushar Patel performed the first collagen cross-linking at James Cook in November 2016. The procedure takes about 18 minutes and involves applying a vitamin B compound, called Riboflavin, to the surface of the eye and then treating it with a controlled application of ultraviolet light to strengthen the cornea using a special machine.
Mr Patel said: “We are very pleased to have this service available for our patients. Previously we would have had to refer patients elsewhere for treatment or just keep monitoring them closely.
“Patients now don’t need to travel to other specialist centres and can have their treatment performed at James Cook in a more timely manner. This means that they can benefit from stable vision much earlier in the disease process without the need for using complex spectacle or contact lens correction to optimise their vision.
“The other significant advantage of this treatment is the reduced impact on corneal donor demand because the number of corneal transplants required will reduce.”
Jacob Rawlinson, one of the first patients to undergo the treatment has been very impressed. He said: “I’m grateful to have had my treatment performed here at James Cook and that I have not had to travel further afield. The procedure was painless and my eye has now recovered and I’m looking forward to having my other eye treated.”