The cornea is the clear top surface of your eye that functions in many ways in order to maintain good eye health. Not only does the cornea protect the eye from bacteria and foreign objects like dust particles and pollen, it also assists in properly focusing light beams that enter into the eye, so that vision is clear. If you have a condition or disease that affects your cornea, it can be uncomfortable and can negatively affect your vision and quality of life.
The Leading Medical Clinics of the World® directory includes eye doctors that specialize in treating corneal diseases and conditions. In fact, the optometrists and ophthalmologists included in our directory of clinics includes eye doctors that have performed thousands of corneal and refractive surgeries and who are known by their fellow doctors and patients as some of the top doctors in their field. Read on to learn more about the various types of corneal diseases and conditions that these doctors diagnose and treat.
Corneal Diseases and Conditions
The types of corneal and external diseases that ophthalmologists treat involve the cornea, anterior chamber of the eye, iris, lens, conjunctiva and eyelids. They include the following:
The shape, or curvature, of the cornea determines how light is refracted onto the retina, which affects the clarity of our vision. Refractive errors such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism interfere with clear vision as a result of a misshapen cornea, along with other factors.
A corneal abrasion (scratched or scraped cornea) can be minor or severe and can cause a significant amount of discomfort. Corneal abrasions can occur as a result of being poked in the eye, getting a foreign particle caught under the eyelid, an eye infection and other factors. A corneal abrasion should be checked by an eye doctor to assess the seriousness of the condition and recommend treatment, if necessary.
Corneal infections and ulcers
A cornea can get infected by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites stemming from any number of sources and conditions, including foreign matter, corneal abrasions, ocular herpes, a severe allergic eye disease or severely dry eyes, or wearing dirty contact lenses. If left untreated, an infected cornea can also cause a corneal ulcer (an open sore on the cornea’s outer layer) and could lead to blindness.
Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
Most commonly known as “pink eye,” conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the tissue that covers the white portion of the eye and the inside of the eyelid. This condition is characterized by a swollen eyelid and redness of the white portion of the eye. It may be caused by a virus, bacteria or allergies, or by irritants entering the eye.
Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) is a condition that causes chronically dry eyes due to the inability of the tear ducts to produce a sufficient amount, or sufficient quality, of tears to lubricate the eyes. Though typically benign, this condition is generally uncomfortable for the sufferer, who often feels as though there are foreign particles in their eye that cause eye irritation. Dry eye may be a standalone eye condition, or it may occur as a result of underlying causes like diabetes and thyroid disorders.
Keratitis is a condition where the surface of the cornea is inflamed due to an infection, dry eyes, a minor eye injury or wearing contact lenses for too long. Keratitis may occur in one or both eyes and cause symptoms that include eye redness and pain, excessive tearing, blurred vision and light sensitivity. Severe cases, when left untreated, may lead to vision loss.
Blepharitis is a condition that affects the eyelid, causing itchiness, redness, irritation and a burning sensation at the base of the eyelashes. This common condition occurs when the oil glands within the eyelids become clogged. Blepharitis could have many causes, including bacterial infection and allergies.
Pterygium (known as “surfer’s eye”) is the growth of a fleshy tissue on the cornea, in the white portion of the eye. Causes of this condition are unclear, though a prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light and wind (which carries dust and other particles into the eye) are believed to be contributing factors.
This uncommon eye condition is caused by the cornea changing shape to form a cone-like appearance. Keratoconus is caused by protein fibers in the eye that become weak and can no longer hold the cornea in its natural round shape. This condition, which can occur quickly or over the course of years, may be caused by genetics, certain medical conditions, allergies or chronic eye rubbing.
Fuchs’ dystrophy is a condition where the cornea becomes swollen and causes blurred or distorted vision as a result of endothelial cells (the cells responsible for maintaining a sufficient amount of fluids in the cornea) dying off. The cornea thickens and blurred vision occurs as a result. Fuchs’ dystrophy is mostly a hereditary disease that progresses over time.
Diagnosing Corneal Diseases and Conditions
Cornea problems can only be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam performed by an ophthalmologist. Tests may include a slit-lamp exam, which involves a thorough examination of the eye’s frontal structure using a low-power microscope that focuses a thin beam of light onto the cornea.
Treating Corneal Conditions
As the conditions that affect the cornea are varied, the treatments available are as well, and could include one or more of the following:
Eye doctors may prescribe medication in the form of eye drops, ointments and/or oral medication for more mild corneal problems, such as a corneal abrasion, pink eye or dry eye. In some cases, even more serious corneal problems may be effectively treated through medication, especially when the condition is being treated in its early stages.
Refractive errors caused by irregularly shaped corneas are typically corrected with prescription glasses or contact lenses.
Laser vision correction procedures, including LASIK and PRK, are sometimes used to correct refractive errors by reshaping the cornea so that it refracts light onto the retina properly, resulting in clearer vision. When choosing a LASIK surgeon, it is important to work with someone who is not only qualified, but will take the time to do a thorough examination and give you the best recommendation for your specific condition.
Pterygium removal surgery may be used to remove the fleshy tissue growth on the cornea in cases where the pterygium is more advanced.
The corneal implant procedure is sometimes used to treat keratoconus, and involves implanting a small, plastic, circular ring into the mid-layer of the cornea to change its shape.
Corneal transplant surgery, or penetrating keratoplasty (PK), is a procedure that can be used to treat a variety of cornea conditions. This procedure involves the removal of the damaged portion of the cornea’s center, which is then replaced with healthy corneal tissue provided by a donor.
Finding the Right Corneal Specialist for You
The Leading Medical Clinics of the World® directory includes some of the top ophthalmologists around the world, many of whom are considered corneal specialists due to specialized training and years of experience treating corneal conditions and diseases. All of the eye doctors in our network are:
- Well-respected by peers
- Positively reviewed by patients
- Ranked as a top medical practitioner in their field
- In good standing with their medical board(s)
- Operating from a clinic that upholds the highest level of healthcare standards
- Which treatment options are available to me?
- How long will the treatment last?
- What results can I expect from treatment?
- If my treatment involves medication, what types of foods, drugs and activities (driving, etc.) should I avoid while taking it?
- How many corneal surgeries have you performed?
- What are the risks and/or side effects associated with the treatment?
- If I need to have a corneal procedure, how long is the recovery period?
- How much time will I have to take off of work for recovery?
- What types of limitations (driving, exercising, etc.) will I have during the recovery period?
- Can you provide me with any patient information (whether print or digital) to help me better understand my diagnosis and/or treatment?
- Do you offer evening or weekend appointments?
- What financing options are available to me as your patient?
- Will my insurance cover my surgery?
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