The cornea is the transparent front part of your eye, covering the iris (the colored part) and pupil (the black center). The cornea is often compared to the windshield of a car, as it’s the barrier between the inside of the eye and the outside world.
Images enter your eye as light, then are transmitted and sent to your brain for processing. This is how you see. The cornea allows the image you are looking at to be carried by light waves into the interior of your eye by gathering and focusing visual images. This focusing allows the images you see to be sharp and clear.
Corneal problems can happen to anyone at any age. If something such as disease, injury, or infection damages the cornea, it can become cloudy and warped. A damaged cornea distorts light as it travels into the eye, affecting your vision. It may even be painful.
The smoothness and shape of the corneas are vitally important to its proper functioning, as is its transparency. If either the surface smoothness or the clarity of the cornea surface is disturbed, vision becomes distorted.
Common Conditions & Diseases
Keratoconus: This occurs when the cornea changes shape, pushing outward like a cone. A cone-shaped cornea distorts light as it travels into the eye. This may cause you to see blurry or even multiple images. Keratoconus often affects young adults; the cause is not yet known.
Fuchs’ Dystrophy: Our endothelial cells act as “pumper” cells, helping to keep fluids within the eye maintained at a healthy level. When these cells start to die off, the fluid isn’t pushed through the eye properly and swelling of the cornea can occur.
Side-effects from previous eye surgeries: After surgery, the cornea sometimes becomes swollen and cloudy. As a result, you might experience glare or see images that are blurry, faint, or washed out. The swollen cornea may also develop painful blisters.
Injury from an eye infection, chemicals, fireworks, or a sharp object: Injuries like this can create scar tissue, which is difficult for light to penetrate. You may see very faint or distorted images, or only light and shadows.
Common Treatment Options
Cornea Transplant: Involves removing the central area of a patient’s cornea and replacing it with a donor’s cornea. A cornea transplant can treat a number of conditions, including thinning of the cornea, corneal scarring (caused by infection or injury), clouding and/or swelling of the cornea, ulcers, and complications caused by previous eye surgery.
Pterygium: A pterygium is a benign growth of vessels on the conjunctiva, which is the thin covering on the white part of the eye. Although they are not harmful, they can cause issues with vision, irritation, and appearance. The growth can be surgically removed using various techniques that are individualized to your specific situation.
Other Corneal Procedures: Your cornea is very fragile and a vital component to your vision. There are a variety of corneal treatments offered at Minnesota Eye Consultants, depending on your specific eye needs. A few common options are PTK, Corneal Intacs, and Astigmatic Keratotomy (AK). All of these can be done in our Laser Suite, however, the AK procedure is often performed in the operating room in conjunction with Cataract or Lens Implant Surgery.
Corneal Collagen Crosslinking: Corneal Collagen Crosslinking (CXL) is a technique that uses ultraviolet light and a photosensitizer called riboflavin (liquid vitamin B2) to strengthen the cornea and attempt to reduce the progression of Keratoconus or post-LASIK ectasia. Crosslinking of collagen refers to the ability of collagen fibers to form strong bonds with other fibers.
Our Cornea Surgeons
David R. Hardten, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Specializes in: Cornea, Cataract & Refractive Surgery
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.
Minnesota Eye Consultants is a comprehensive ophthalmology, eye care provider with various locations throughout Minnesota. If you are seeking Minnesota LASIK specialists and are interested in how laser vision correction could help you see better please contact us at your earliest convenience. Our LASIK counselors are here to help you determine the cost of LASIK, what happens during the LASIK procedure and how LASIK eye surgery can help your lifestyle. The eye doctors at Minnesota Eye Consultants are dedicated to helping our patients see better.
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