The cornea is a portion of your eye. It's susceptible to a variety of conditions ranging from dry eye to dystrophies. These issues may cause pain and discomfort as well as interfere with your ability to see clearly. At Cape Fear Eye Associates, PA, serving Fayetteville, NC and the surrounding region, we offer solutions to correct these problems.
About the Cornea
Your cornea is the transparent layer forming the front of the eye. This part of your eye has five different layers, each serving a unique purpose. The cornea consists of cells, proteins, and fluids that keep your eyes free of germs and debris. Not only does it protect your lens and iris, but it also has an impact on your vision. It's responsible for between 65 to 70 percent of the focusing power your eye has. It doesn't have any blood vessels, so it relies on tears and the aqueous humor to provide it with nourishment.
Possible Problems With Your Cornea
Usually, a minor injury or scratch to your cornea will heal on its own. However, deeper injuries may cause you to have scarring. You might notice a haze on your cornea. An injury may also cause pain, headaches, nausea, fatigue, sensitivity to light, reduced vision, blurry vision, redness, or inflammation.
A fungus, bacteria, or parasite could cause keratitis, which is when your cornea becomes inflamed. It could also occur from an injury or keeping your contacts in for a prolonged amount of time.
If you have dry eye, you may notice your eyes are red and inflamed. In addition, you may notice you have a burning or stinging pain. Some people experience issues with their vision. Dry eye stems from either your eyes not producing enough tears or making poor quality tears.
Additionally, our doctors treat corneal dystrophies including keratoconus, Fuchs' dystrophy, and lattice dystrophy. Corneal dystrophy occurs when one or more areas of your cornea have a reduction in clarity. It happens because of buildup clouding the cornea. Usually, it's inherited and progresses gradually.
One example is keratoconus. It causes your cornea to thin, and as it does, it causes double vision, blurred vision, nearsightedness, light sensitivity, and astigmatism. It causes the cells in the endothelium of your cornea to deteriorate.
The endothelial cells in your cornea have fluid, but in someone with Fuchs', the cells die and fluid builds up. You may experience swelling, glare, distorted vision, difficulty seeing at night, and blurred vision as a result.
Lattice dystrophy causes deposits in the stroma of your cornea that look like lattice. The deposits are comprised of amyloid, which is an abnormal protein fiber. Over time, these deposits cause vision impairment. It may alter the curvature of the cornea and cause pain.
How We Treat Corneal Disorders
Treatment for corneal disorders varies based on the issue that's affecting your cornea. For instance, if you have severe damage to your cornea due to an injury or condition, you may require a cornea transplant. During this procedure, you receive corneal tissue from a donor that replaces your damaged tissue. You may also undergo a surgical procedure to implant an artificial cornea.
For infections and dry eye, you may receive prescription eye drops to correct the problem. Antibiotic eye drops correct bacterial infections while artificial tears may hydrate your eyes.
Patients who have irregular curvature in their cornea, like those who have keratoconus, may undergo a laser procedure that corrects the curvature of the eye. One laser procedure is known as phototherapeutic keratectomy (PTK). This procedure uses a combination of laser technology and UV light. It reshapes the cornea and restores it too.
Some patients benefit from prescription eyewear alone. Generally though, this only effective in the early stages of a condition. Once the problem worsens, other treatments are necessary.
What is Corneal Cross-Linking?
Cross-linking is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that combines the use of UVA light and riboflavin eye drops to add stiffness to corneas which have been weakened by disease or refractive surgery. Cross-linking, which has been performed in Europe since 2003, is considered the standard of care around the world for keratoconus and corneal ectasia following refractive surgery.
Keratoconus, often referred to as ‘KC’, is a non-inflammatory eye condition in which the typically round dome-shaped cornea progressively thins and weakens, causing the development of a cone-like bulge and optical irregularity of the cornea. This causes ‘static’ in your vision and can result in significant visual impairment.
Keratoconus typically first appears in individuals who are in their late teens or early twenties, and may progress for 10-20 years, and then slow or stabilize. Each eye may be affected differently. In the early stages of keratoconus, people might experience:
Slight blurring of vision
Distortion of vision
Increased sensitivity to light
The cornea is responsible for focusing most of the light that comes into the eye. Therefore, abnormalities of the cornea, such as keratoconus, can have a major impact on how an individual sees the world, making simple tasks such as driving a car or reading a book very difficult. Keratoconus can result in significant vision loss; and may lead to corneal transplant in severe cases.
Is Cross-Linking Right for Me?
Patients over the age of 14 who have been diagnosed with progressive keratoconus or corneal ectasia following refractive surgery should ask their doctor about corneal cross-linking.
Our practice is proud to offer patients in our practice the first and only therapeutic products for corneal cross-linking which have been FDA approved to treat progressive keratoconus. This approval offers an effective treatment for patients who, until recently, had no therapeutic options to limit the progression of this sight-threatening disease
To Learn More about Keratoconus visit: Living with KC
If you think you have an issue with your cornea, contact Cape Fear Eye Associates, PA, serving Fayetteville and the surrounding region, by calling (910) 484-2284 or click here to schedule schedule an appointment.