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Emily’s Keratoconus Journey, Part 1: Before iLink®

When Emily was in the eighth grade, she noticed that it was difficult for her to see the whiteboard during class. After visiting an eye doctor, Emily was given glasses and sent on her way. At the time, Emily had no idea that this was only the beginning of a long road filled with vision issues that she would ultimately learn were caused by keratoconus. Luckily, the now 28-year-old was able to find an eye doctor knowledgeable about her condition and the available treatment options. 

Grappling with Vision Issues

After getting by with glasses and contact lenses during high school and college, Emily decided to become a first-grade teacher. She loves her profession, as she can watch her students learn and grow. After the bell rings, she enjoys hanging out with her family, her boyfriend, her siblings, and her Aussiedoodle, Lola. 

However, over the years, Emily’s vision issues worsened and started impacting her career and personal life. During the school day, Emily began experiencing debilitating headaches that interfered with her ability to read books to her students. She also struggled to see her coworkers and students, as she could not identify people’s faces unless they were right in front of her. 

Outside of work, Emily had to stop driving at night because she was concerned about her ability to see the road clearly. Emily, who participates in sports, also found that her declining eyesight affected her ability to play volleyball and softball. After joining a summer softball league, Emily noticed that her contact lenses impacted her depth perception, causing her frustration when she could not find the ball. She decided she needed to stop playing and make an appointment with her eye doctor. 

Finding Answers & a Treatment Plan 

In early 2020, Emily visited Dr. Jeremy Anderson at Eye Associates of Alexandria to get to the bottom of what was causing her worsening eyesight. After ordering some tests, Dr. Anderson told Emily that he was 99% positive that she had keratoconus, but that he wanted to refer her to a specialist for further evaluation. Emily felt nervous because she did not know a lot about keratoconus. After calling her mom to discuss her possible condition, Emily learned that her cousin and aunt have keratoconus, as well. 

Dr. Brooke Messer at Vance Thompson Vision was the specialist Emily was referred to and she did diagnose Emily with progressive keratoconus. Her recommendation was for Emily to receive the iLink FDA-approved cross-linking procedure to slow or halt the progression of her condition. Emily, who was hoping not to need surgery, felt nervous. However, Emily’s trepidation began to lessen when Dr. Messer demonstrated how a specialty lens could improve her vision following the procedure. Then, instead of feeling nervous, Emily became excited about the prospect of being able to see more clearly for the first time in years. She felt even more comfortable once a technician shared more detailed information about the procedure and she knew what to expect. 

Navigating Insurance Coverage

After Emily decided to treat her progressive keratoconus with iLink, she began looking into insurance coverage. At the time, she had never really paid any attention to what her coverage included. After calling to inquire about the cost of her cross-linking procedure, Emily realized that she would have to meet a high deductible. Determined to receive the procedure, Emily was able to switch her plan to one with a lower deductible that she could afford. With that obstacle behind her, Emily was prepared and eager to have her first iLink procedure to treat her right eye, on July 11, 2022. 

Insurance coverage for the iLink® FDA-approved cross-linking procedure with Photrexa® Viscous (riboflavin 5’-phosphate in 20% dextran ophthalmic solution), Photrexa® (riboflavin 5’-phosphate ophthalmic solution), and the KXL® System is now widely available. More than 95% of the commercially insured population has access to this potentially sight-protecting treatment. 

Continue Following Emily’s iLink Journey!

Stay tuned for part 2 of Emily’s Keratoconus Journey, where we’ll be following her as she undergoes her first and second procedures and is fitted with specialty lenses to improve her vision.  

Find a Doctor (Performing iLink

Search our physician locator to find a corneal specialist who is familiar with treating progressive keratoconus.

The results described on this site are based on data collected regarding short- and intermediate-term efficacy of treatment. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.

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Important Safety Information

Ulcerative keratitis, a potentially serious eye infection, can occur. Your doctor should monitor defects in the outermost corneal layer of the eye for resolution.

The most common ocular side effect is haze. Other ocular side effects include inflammation, fine white lines, dry eye, disruption of surface cells, eye pain, light sensitivity, reduced sharpness of vision, and blurred vision. The risk information provided here is not comprehensive. To learn more, talk to your healthcare provider.

Go to Prescribing Info to obtain the FDA-approved product labeling.

You are encouraged to report all side effects to the FDA. Visit, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Approved Uses

Photrexa® Viscous (riboflavin 5’-phosphate in 20% dextran ophthalmic solution) and Photrexa® (riboflavin 5’-phosphate ophthalmic solution) are used with the KXL® System in corneal cross-linking to treat eyes in which the cornea, the clear dome shaped surface that covers the front of the eye, has been weakened from the progression of the disease keratoconus or following refractive surgery, a method for correcting or improving your vision.

Tell your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.