The cornea is the clear, domed layer that covers the front part of the eye. Along with the sclera, which is the white part of your eye, the cornea forms a protective barrier against dirt, bacteria, and other foreign bodies which could cause damage to your eyes. It even blocks out some of the natural UV light produced by the sun, but not enough to mean that we shouldn’t wear sunglasses with 100% UV-blocking ability when we go outside.
Our corneas play a key role in our vision, refracting any light as it enters our eyes so that it passes through and reaches the retina. At the back of the eye, the retina intercepts the light and turns it into messages sent up the optic nerve to the brain. Unfortunately, any damage to the cornea as a result of injury or disease can have a significant impact on the quality and clarity of our vision. The cornea also contains many nerve endings, meaning that injury or disease can cause discomfort.
There is a range of symptoms associated with corneal conditions. These include:
Discomfort/pain affecting the eyes
Redness of the eyes
Extreme sensitivity to light
These can also be signs of other eye conditions, so it’s important to schedule an appointment to discuss your symptoms with your eye doctor.
Corneal disorders take a variety of different forms, with some more common than others. The most prevalent conditions that affect the cornea include:
This condition is caused by the progressive thinning of the cornea, which causes it to bulge outwards in a cone-like shape that affects vision and makes it hard to wear contact lenses.
This refers to inflammation of the cornea, normally caused by an infection related to contact lens wear. This could be because the contacts haven’t been cleaned properly, or you’ve used dirty hands to touch your eyes.
Corneal dystrophies cause cloudy vision when material builds up on the cornea.
Dry eye is a condition that occurs when your eyes don’t make enough tears to stay wet, or when tear film quality is too poor to be effective.
Allergies are extremely common and the histamines that are released to counteract them can affect the eyes, causing watering, itchiness, and redness.
Small scratches on the cornea usually heal by themselves, but deeper scratches can lead to permanent scarring that affects the quality of your vision.
Exactly what treatment you’ll be recommended to have will depend on the corneal disorder you are experiencing. The vast majority can be treated successfully using a combination of topical solutions like prescription eye drops or gels, and oral medications. Your eye doctor will be able to recommend the most effective combination of treatments to help reduce your symptoms and restore your vision.
Nevertheless, patients who have more advanced corneal disorders may require more invasive treatment. This could include:
Known as phototherapeutic keratectomy, or PTK for short, this cutting-edge laser treatment is used to reshape the cornea in order to remove any scar tissue that is detrimental to your vision.
If the damage to your cornea is irreparable, you may be recommended to have surgery to remove it and replace it with healthy corneal tissue provided by a donor. Alternatively, you may be given an artificial replacement called keratoprosthesis (KPro).
If you have concerns about corneal disorders and would like more information about how to identify them and the treatment that is available, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experienced team of eye care specialists at Fier Eye Care & Surgery Center in Stuart and Port St. Lucie, Florida today at (772) 400-2400 and (772) 286-0007 to schedule an appointment.