What You Should Know About Corneal Disease
The cornea is the transparent covering of the eye that plays a crucial role in refracting light for clear vision. Maintaining a healthy cornea is essential for good eyesight, as damage to this structure can lead to various symptoms such as pain, light sensitivity, blurriness, inflammation, headaches, and even vision loss.
Several conditions and diseases can harm the cornea, including:
- Injuries and trauma
- Keratitis, which is inflammation of the cornea caused by injury, bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. Neurotrophic keratitis, a rare degenerative disease, is characterized by corneal numbness, thinning, ulcers, and perforation.
- Dry eye, resulting from insufficient tear production or poor tear quality
- Viral infections like shingles and herpes
- Iridocorneal endothelial syndrome, leading to corneal swelling, glaucoma, and iris changes
- Pterygium, an abnormal tissue growth on the cornea
- Stevens-Johnson syndrome (erythema multiforme major), a severe skin disorder that affects the cornea, causing conjunctivitis, blisters, erosions, and painful eyelid blisters
- Corneal dystrophies (such as keratoconus, lattice corneal dystrophy, map-dot-fingerprint dystrophy, and Fuchs' dystrophy), which cause cloudiness in parts of the cornea, typically starting in childhood
- Allergies and minor scratches
Lowering the risks associated with corneal damage involves wearing protective eyewear during sports, yard work, home repairs, machine operation, and chemical handling, as recommended by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Additionally, proper cleaning, disinfection, and storage of contact lenses can help prevent keratitis and other corneal infections.
If you suspect any form of corneal damage, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention to examine for corneal abrasions and diseases. Many eye diseases lack early symptoms or warning signs, emphasizing the importance of regular dilated eye exams even if your eyes appear healthy.
Treatment options for corneal diseases vary depending on the specific condition and may include:
- Eye drops and ointments
- Cenegermin, a medication used to treat neurotrophic keratitis
- Oral antiviral medications
- Laser surgery to reshape and restore the cornea, treating corneal erosions and dystrophies
- Partial corneal transplant, where one or two layers of the cornea are removed or replaced with a donor layer
- Full corneal transplant for patients with keratoconus, severe corneal scarring, certain corneal dystrophies, edema after cataract surgery, or corneal failure following eye surgery
- Artificial cornea for individuals who are not suitable candidates for corneal transplants
Scleral contact lenses are a common and effective treatment for corneal problems. These lenses cover the cornea and rest on the sclera (the white part of the eye). They are customized to protect the cornea's surface, maintain hydration, aid corneal recovery after transplant, and are the preferred option for conditions such as keratoconus and severe dry eye.
At our practice in The Woodlands, Magnolia, Shenandoah, Tomball, Texas, and the surrounding communities, we provide comprehensive care for corneal conditions. Contact us to schedule an appointment and receive the highest level of treatment and support.