When bobsledder Steven Holcomb stood on the medal platform at the Sochi Winter Olympics it was the culmination of a journey that took him from the depths of vision loss to the heights of Olympic glory.
Holcomb began going blind in 2000—just as his bobsledding career was beginning. He saw numerous specialists and tried a number of treatment options including Lasik eye surgery, hard contact lenses, and thick glasses, but his vision continued to deteriorate.
Doctors diagnosed Holcomb with Keratoconus, a condition occurs when tiny protein fibers in the eye that hold the cornea in place become weak. This causes the cornea to change shape. The cornea eventually becomes cone-shaped and unable to focus light properly, causing distorted vision.
The doctors who diagnosed Holcomb with the condition told him that if he wanted to restore his vision he would need eye surgery in the form of a cornea transplant. The recovery time for this eye surgery would require Holcomb to give up his sport for two years, which would effectively end his Olympic dreams.
An Alternative to Eye Surgery
In 2008 Holcomb found hope when he discovered an alternative to eye surgery. He discouvered Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler, who had developed a non-surgical treatment for Keratoconus called C3-R. The treatment combines vitamin applications and ultraviolet light to strengthen the cornea.
Holcomb was encouraged that the treatment required almost no recovery time and it could be performed as an outpatient procedure in approximately thirty minutes.
With no other options to keep his Olympic dreams alive, Holcomb opted to undergo the procedure.
In lieu of eye surgery, Dr. Boxer Wachler coated Holcomb’s eyes with a special blend of vitamins, including riboflavin, to strengthen the collagen fibers of the cornea. Within ten minutes of the procedure his sight was restored from legally blind to 20/20 vision without eye surgery. Holcomb was surprised by the results of the procedure, calling the results “incredible.”
Holcomb’s story illustrates how new medicines and treatments, including those for eye disorders, can enhance the quality of our lives. But through discoveries found in clinical trials, the quality of life for patients around the world is improved. There is no doubt, medical research has real lasting impact to help people.
Jean Brown Research is proud of our 25 years of research that has fueled the development of new medications and procedures. We have an upcoming study to test the effects of medication on the eye – please check back to learn more about the study and to see if you qualify or fill out a form on our Healthy Volunteer study page.