On /*September 11*/, firefighter Jeff Ruggieri was one of the thousands of rescuers sifting through rubble. The dust bothered his vision, but Ruggieri also had a disease called /*keratoconus*/ in his left eye.
"I can't make out details on people's faces," said Ruggieri.
A stroke in his other eye ended Ruggieri's days as a firefighter.
"Right now, I'm sitting at a desk job. And I would like to return to duty and perform my duties again," said Ruggieri.
"Keratoconus causes this weakening in the collagen fibers," said Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler, /*ophthalmologist*/. "As a result, the collagen starts bulging and the cornea starts bulging out uncontrollably."
Dr. Wachler says severe cases are treated with corneal transplants or another procedure called Intacs, where corneal rings are implanted to correct refractive errors.
Dr. Wachler enrolled Ruggieri in a trial where he would get a few eye drops and a little light.
"That interaction causes the cornea and the collagen to transform and become stronger and stiffer," said Dr. Wachler.
As soon as the vitamin drops and the UVA lighting interact, doctors say the strengthening and cross-linking of collagen fibers begins. Patients have reported no pain, but a slight itching.
"The only discomfort I had was I felt like there was a hair in my eye," said Ruggieri.
Dr. Wachler also implanted two corneal rings to reinforce the new shape. The next morning, both were thrilled with the results. Ruggieri was able to read the 20/20 line on the vision chart. With that news, Ruggieri said he couldn't wait to get back to work.
"I love being able to help people, just like Dr. Boxer Wachler helped me," said Ruggieri.
Previous research shows the C3R treatment may reverse keratoconus for up ten years. Dr. Wachler says he believes the effects could last a lifetime.
Other possible causes of keratoconus include allergies and excessive eye rubbing.
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