New treatment could save skater's eyesight


by KING 5 Healthlink

Posted on August 7, 2012 at 6:48 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 7 at 7:20 PM

An eye disease threatens to dash a young skater's dreams of competing in the 2018  Olympics. Now a new treatment could save his sight and help thousands of others. 

Ice skater Adrian Huertas has his sights set on the 2018 Olympics.

"I really just like the feeling of flying and spinning, and jumping in the air, and rotating as fast as you can. I just think it's an amazing feeling. And it's so much fun," Huertas said.

"I would really like to be part of the the U.S. team," he added.

But a vision problem could ice those dreams.

"About three years ago I told my mom my eye was blurry. And I just thought it was blurry in one eye, but it turned out to be more than that," Huertas recalled.

Adrian's doctor diagnosed Keratoconus, an eye disease that affects one in two thousand people.

"In keratoconus the cornea becomes misshapen so that the light rays aren't focused," explained ophthalmologist Kathryn Colby. Dr. Colby, is a cornea surgeon at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, and associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.

Keratoconus can lead to blindness. The only option used to be a corneal transplant. Now as part of a clinical trial at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Adrian is trying a new treatment to save his sight. It's called collagen cross linking.

Doctors first soak the eye with the  
B-vitamin riboflavin. Then they apply U-V light. The combination strengthens and stabilizes the cornea.

"What this does is strengthen the structural proteins of the cornea," said Dr. Colby. "In Europe it's the standard of care for keratoconus," she said.

In a study in Italy the procedure improved vision in almost 70 percent of patients. Adrian's hoping it will work to keep his Olympic dream alive.

"Hopefully I can make it and be good enough to do it," he said.

The new eye treatment still needs FDA approval before doctors can use it in the United States.