The cornea, which is the clear covering of the front of the eye, is designed to both transmit and focus light rays as they enter the eye. There are many diseases that can affect the cornea, causing pain or loss of vision. Disease, infection or injury can cause the cornea to swell, known as edema, or degrade where the cornea becomes cloudy and vision is reduced. Common diseases and disorders that affect the cornea include:
- Bullous Keratopathy
- Dry Eye
- Corneal Dystrophies
- Fuchs’ Dystrophy
- Lattice Dystrophy
- Iridocorneal Endothelial Syndrome
- Ocular Herpes
- Stevens-Johnson Syndrome
Treatment for corneal disease can take many forms, depending on the underlying problem as well as the patient’s medical history. Some conditions may resolve on their own and many can be treated with medication. If the cornea is severely damaged or if there is a risk of blindness, a corneal transplant may be recommended to preserve vision.
Corneal Transplant Surgery
The cornea, which is the transparent covering on the eye’s front wall, is designed to both transmit and focus light rays as they enter the eye. If the cornea is not shaped properly or is somehow clouded, whether because of injury, infection or disease, visual acuity is compromised, and a transplant may be recommended.
There are several different corneal transplant procedures available to help restore vision in patients with corneal problems. The traditional corneal transplant procedure, penetrating keratoplasty, involves replacing the entire damaged cornea with a healthy one from a human donor. Technological advances have allowed for the development of specialized procedures in corneal transplantation. They include endothelial keratoplasty and deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty, which replace only the damaged part of the cornea while leaving the healthy parts intact.
Keratitis is an inflammation or infection of the cornea. Keratitis often develops as the result of an infection, but can also be caused by a small scratch or prolonged contact lens wear. If left untreated, keratitis can lead to serious complications and can permanently damage vision.
Treatment of keratitis should begin as soon as possible to avoid complications. The type of treatment method depends on the type and the cause of the condition but may include some of the following:
- Antibacterial medication
- Anti-fungal medication
- Antiviral medication
- Corneal transplant for severe cases
The doctor will recommend a personalized treatment plan based on each patient’s individual condition.
Dry Eyes Treatment
Dry eye is a common condition that occurs when the eyes are insufficiently moisturized, leading to itching, redness and pain from dry spots on the surface of the eye. The eyes may become dry and irritated because the tear ducts don’t produce enough tears, or because of a chemical imbalance in the tears.
Patients with this condition often experience irritating symptoms and which may result in more serious damage to the vision if the condition is left untreated. It is important for patients with this condition to take special care of their eyes in order to alleviate symptoms and prevent complications. Your doctor can diagnose dry eye after a thorough evaluation of your eyes and tear production with a Schirmer tear test.
Treatment for dry eye depends on the cause and severity of the condition, as well as the patient’s overall health and personal preference. Non-surgical treatments are often effective, and may include the following:
- Blinking on purpose
- Increasing humidity levels at home or work
- Use artificial tears or a moisturizing ointment
- Stop smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
- Avoiding air conditioning or windy conditions outdoors
- Stop the use of allergy and cold medicines
- Adding omega-3 fatty acids to the diet as food or supplements
If non-surgical methods are unsuccessful, surgical treatments may be an option. Treatment options may include:
- Small punctal plugs may be inserted in the corners of the eyes to limit tear drainage
- Punctal cautery, a procedure to permanently close the drainage holes may be another option
- Eyelid surgery is also a solution if an eyelid condition is causing your dry eyes
Treating the underlying cause of dry eyes can also help relieve the symptoms of this condition.
Pterygium Treatment and Surgery
Pterygium is a painless, non-cancerous growth of the conjunctiva, the lining that covers the white part of the eye. The pterygium may grow on the cornea, which covers the iris, the colored part of the eye. A pterygium usually begins at the nasal side of the eye and can be different colors, including red, pink, white, yellow or gray.
Patients with pterygium often first notice the condition because of the appearance of a lesion on their eye or because of dry, itchy irritation, tearing or redness. Pterygium is initially noticed when it is confined only to the conjunctiva. At this stage of development it is called a pinguecula. As it extends to the cornea it is termed a pterygium and can eventually lead to impaired vision.
In most mild cases of pterygium, artificial tears can be used to reduce dryness and irritation. For those patients with severe cases of pterygium and whose vision has been affected, different types of surgery are available. Surgery is the only way to definitively remove a pterygium, but it is not a perfect solution; it requires long-term follow-up, and the recurrence rate is between 30 to 40 percent.
To learn more about our Ophthalmology Services, please contact us today to schedule an appointment!