What is the cornea?
The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped tissue on the surface of your eye. The cornea allows light into your eye, and plays a big role in focusing your vision. The cornea appears to lack substance, but is a surprisingly complex tissue. Unlike most tissues in the body, the cornea does not contain blood vessels to nourish or protect it against infection. The cornea receives its nourishment from tears and aqueous humor (the fluid inside of your eye.)
The cornea has five distinct layers, each with an important job. These layers are:
- Epithelium: The outermost layer of the cornea, responsible for protecting the eye from outside materials and providing a smooth surface to absorb oxygen from tears.
- Bowman’s membrane: The thin second layer, made up of protein fibers called collagen.
- Stroma: The thickest layer of the cornea, primarily made of water and collagen. This layer gives the cornea its form and elasticity.
- Decemet’s membrane: A thin but strong film of tissue, serving as a protective barrier against infection and injuries.
- Endothelium: The thin innermost layer of the cornea, the endothelial cells are important in keeping the cornea clear. Its primary job is to pump excess fluid out of the stroma.
Common Corneal Conditions
The cornea is susceptible to many different diseases and conditions. The more common conditions include:
- Injury: The cornea is capable of healing minor scratches and injuries on its own. Deeper injuries can cause scarring, resulting in hazy vision.Keratitis: Keratitis is the inflammation of the cornea. This condition can be noninfectious, and is most often caused by minor injury. Infectious keratitis is caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites.
- Dry eye syndrome: Dry eye syndrome is extremely common, and can cause the cornea to feel dry and itchy. This is generally due to a malfunction in tear production.
- Keratoconus: Keratoconus causes the normally dome-shaped cornea to become more cone-shaped and bulge forward. This causes extremely blurry vision.
- Fuch’s Dystrophy: This condition progresses slowly over time and causes the endothelial cells to die off. As these cells deteriorate, excess fluid builds up in the cornea and causes swelling. The cornea will also become opaque, causing blindness.
- Pterygium: Pterygium is a fleshy growth that appears on the surface of the cornea. This is usually due to excessive UV exposure. Generally, they are harmless but can cause vision problems and irritation if left to grow.
Common Corneal Surgeries
The cornea is a delicate tissue, and operating on it is not always easy. Always make sure your corneal surgeon is extremely experienced and skilled. Here at Anh Nguyen Ophthalmology, you can rest assured that you are in good hands.
We offer the following corneal surgeries:
- Laser surgery: Phototherapeutic keratectomy (PTK) uses UV light and laser technology to reshape and restore the cornea. This can be used on patients with corneal dystrophies. This can help postpone the need for corneal transplant.
- Corneal transplant: Corneal transplant removes the damaged part of the cornea and replaces it with a donor tissue.
- Anterior lamellar keratoplasty: This procedure removes diseased or damaged stromal tissue and replaces it with healthy donor tissue. This procedure is performed on patients with keratoconus, corneal scarring and corneal dystrophies that affect the stroma.
- Corneal cross-linking: A procedure performed to improve the condition of those with keratoconus. This procedure aims to strengthen the cornea and prevent further progression of keratoconus.
Looking for a skilled corneal expert in the area? Look no further than Anh Nguyen Ophthalmology! Contact us today to schedule your appointment.