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JBSA Air Force clinic first to offer new breakthrough procedure

By Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez | 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs | Nov. 24, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas. —

Poor eyesight can, and will, pose a potential career ending medical condition to many service members. The 59th Medical Wing’s Wilford Hall Eye Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland has a solution for it.

Wilford Hall Eye Center is the first Air Force medical clinic to perform corneal collagen crosslinking in-house, and has already treated 10 patients so far.

Corneal collagen crosslinking is a breakthrough procedure approved by the Food and Drug Association in April 2016. The surgery is a preventative treatment for keratoconus, an eye disease caused by the decrease of protective antioxidants in the cornea. Often diagnosed during Lasik and other corrective eye surgeries, keratoconus affects roughly one in 2,000 people between the ages of 20-40. If left untreated, it can severely effect vision enough to cause blindness.

During the two-hour procedure, the outer deformed layer of the cornea is scrubbed off to make it as normal as possible. Eye drops are then applied to sensitize the cornea, followed by ultraviolet light shined into the cornea for 30 minutes. This causes it to harden and become more rigid, preventing the keratoconus from changing the shape any further.

 “Over the past 10 years that I’ve been at the clinic here, I’ve seen a lot of patients with keratoconus and, previously, we really couldn’t offer them anything to stop it” said Col. Matthew Caldwell, 59th MDW chairman of the new eye center. “This is huge to be able to change the course of their lives and careers when they can go on and function normally once you stop the progression.”

Ophthalmologists at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., are able to treat patients at Fort Belvoir, Va., which makes it the Army’s first location to host the Crosslinking procedure. In the next few years, Crosslinking will most likely be performed at many more locations, increasing the capability of treating military personnel across the country.

For more information on the 59th Medical Wing, to include Wilford Hall Eye Center, visit www.59mdw.af.mil.