Keratoconus is a condition that causes the cornea (the clear, outer lens on the front of the eye) to become thin and bulge outward like a cone. This change in shape causes light rays entering the eye to become less focused, which results in blurry, distorted vision, along with other possible symptoms such as glare and “ghost images.” Keratoconus usually occurs in both eyes. It often starts in the teenage years and slowly progresses through middle age before stabilizing. The condition normally does not lead to blindness, but it can make daily tasks such as reading and driving difficult. There is no known cause for keratoconus, though it may be connected to chronic eye rubbing, certain allergies, and heredity.

Depending on the case and individual factors, the blurry vision often can be corrected with eyeglasses, standard contact lenses or with special customized contact lenses. Keratoconus also can be treated with a procedure called corneal cross-linking (CXL), which uses ultraviolet light and eye drops containing vitamin B2 and has been proven to strengthen the cornea. The CXL procedure often can eliminate or delay the need for a corneal transplantation.


UAB Callahan Eye Hospital has an extensive history with the corneal cross-linking (CXL) procedure, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2016 but has been used for more than a decade worldwide. The UAB cornea-trained ophthalmologists performing CXL were trained in the procedure by the clinicians who developed the technique. UAB maintains an active keratoconus research program, including a study focusing on treating keratoconus with stem cells.

The cornea specialists at UAB Callahan Eye Hospital use the most advanced technology and are known for working together to treat the full range of both common and complex corneal problems. From cataract and corneal surgeries to highly specialized contact lenses, Callahan features the expertise, experience, and cutting-edge equipment needed to treat the most challenging corneal conditions. Patients come here from around the world and nation because we don’t just treat eye disease – we empower patients to take control of their eye health.

Callahan is the only full-service facility in Alabama specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of the eye and one of only a few worldwide that is entirely devoted to advancements in ophthalmology. That reputation is supported by 16 operating rooms dedicated to eye surgery and a 24/7 eye emergency room that is the region’s only Level I Ocular Trauma Center. More than 11,000 surgeries are performed at UAB Callahan Eye Hospital each year, and we conduct more reconstructive eye procedures than any other facility in the world.