The cornea is the clear outer layer of the eye and it works hard filtering out dirt, some ultraviolet (UV) rays, and other invaders from reaching the eye. But when the cornea is compromised, infected or diseased, prompt care from the certified ophthalmologists at Colorado Ophthalmology Associates of Denver, CO, is crucial to maintain the health of the eye.
Composition of the Cornea
The cornea is made up of three main layers. The first is the outside layer of the epithelium. This layer blocks dirt, dust and germs and absorbs oxygen and nutrients. The second layer, the stroma, is made of water and collagen and gives the cornea strength and shape. The third layer is the endothelium. This layer removes fluid from the cornea to keep the stroma layer clear and evenly balanced.
Diseases of the Cornea
Dystrophies of the cornea can be caused by hereditary or environmental factors. Many diseases of the cornea are progressive and can deteriorate over time. Since they can be unaccompanied by obvious symptoms, these conditions require careful monitoring by a qualified ophthalmologist. Here are some common corneal diseases.
- Keratoconus – Affecting 1 in 2,000 Americans, this disease causes the cornea to thin and become misshapen which then causes vision problems. Symptoms can include nearsightedness, itchiness, double or blurred vision, and light sensitivity.
- Fuchs’ dystrophy – the endothelium’s cells no longer properly remove fluid from the cornea, causing the stroma layer to become hazy. Symptoms include vision that is blurry or cloudy in the morning but gets better throughout the day, halos or glares of light in the vision, and light sensitivity.
- Map-dot finger dystrophy – the epithelium layer becomes folded or patterned which can cause vision problems. These folds can erode, causing sudden, painful tears in the cornea that can cause the eye to hurt and water.
- Lattice dystrophy – abnormal protein fibers in the stroma.
Injuries and Infections of the Cornea
Injuries to the cornea or degenerative conditions can cause infections. Infections and injuries can scar or damage the cornea and require immediate medical attention. Here are a few of the most common injuries to the cornea.
- Corneal abrasion – when a foreign object scratches the cornea.
- Shingles – this disease comes from the chickenpox virus. Shingles on the cornea can cause scarring. If you get shingles on your face, see your ophthalmologist.
- Ocular herpes – the virus that causes cold sores and genital herpes can infect the eye and cause damage and scarring. It requires immediate medical attention.
- Pterygium – pink-colored growth on the cornea that can interfere with vision.
Cornea Treatments are Available
For minor conditions, glasses or special contacts may be prescribed to help counter the effects of a corneal condition. Eye drops or ointment may be prescribed. But when the cornea becomes a persistent problem and vision is adversely affected, it may be time to consider a corneal transplantation.
Corneal transplants are done in the outpatient setting. A donor cornea is exchanged for the diseased or damaged cornea. Afterwards, you will have topical drops to discourage post-op corneal rejection and you will need to return for follow-up examinations and care. While you will likely recover quickly, you may need to wait several weeks or months before getting a new eyeglass prescription.
Get an appointment today
If you or someone you love is suffering from a corneal condition, call us today for an appointment to talk to a board-certified ophthalmologist at one of our two Colorado locations in Denver or Lakewood. We’re able to take emergency appointments to bring you some of the best eye care services available.