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 laser technology to reshape and restore the cornea. This can be used on patients with corneal dystrophies. This can also 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.
Frequetly Asked Questions
Are there artificial corneas?
Yes, there are artificial corneas that can be used in cornea surgery. An artificial cornea is known as a keratoprosthesis.
Can you wear contact lenses after corneal transplant?
Yes, contact lenses can be very helpful after a corneal transplant. However, be sure to follow your ophthalmologists directions regarding contact lens use after surgery.
Can a living person donate a cornea?
Yes, but it is not common for living patients to donate corneas.
Do corneal transplants last forever?
This depends on the overall condition of your eye. Some corneal transplants will last forever, however, in some cases patients will need to have another surgery due to transplant rejection.
Can I wear glasses after corneal transplant?
Yes, either glasses or contact lenses may be worn. Corneal transplant patients will need some form of vision correction in the majority of cases.
Does cornea transplant change eye color?
No, a corneal transplant does not change eye color. This is because the cornea is clear and does not determine eye color.
Can you have a second corneal transplant?
Yes, you can undergo a second corneal transplant as needed. For example, a transplant rejection would require a second surgery.
How long after a corneal transplant can you fly?
There is typically no reason why you cannot fly after your corneal transplant surgery. Most patients are ready to resume travel between 24 and 48 hours after their surgery.
How long does it take to recover from a corneal transplant?
It can take up to a year to fully recover from a corneal transplant. However, most patients can resume their normal routines within a week or two.
Is corneal transplant major surgery?
A corneal transplant is a serious surgery, however, it does not require extended downtime or overnight hospital stays.