The cornea is the front “windshield” of the eye. The main function of the cornea is to focus light. The cornea, in its normal state, is optically clear and therefore does not contain blood vessels to nourish it. Instead, your tears and aqueous humor (liquid filling the chamber behind the cornea) provide the needed nourishment for your cornea.
There are multiple disorders and conditions that can affect your cornea. It is very important to seek out a trained cornea specialist when you think you may have a cornea problem.
Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry Eye Syndrome occurs when the eye is not producing enough quality tears. Our tears are extremely important to hydrate and protect the eye. As well, they play an integral role in focusing the images that we see. Many people with dry eye may experience irritation, scratchiness, burning, and even blurred vision. Dry Eye Syndrome is one of the most common yet sometimes most difficult to treat problems we face every day. Dry eyes can also be associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid problems.
The treatment for Dry Eye Syndrome often begins with the use of artificial tears. Treatment of any underlying systemic problems that may be causing dry eye is indicated as well. Moderate to more severe cases of dry eye are usually treated with escalating regimens including prescription medications and punctual plugs.
At MedEye Associates, we are conducting clinical research aimed at advancing the treatment of Dry Eye Syndrome. Call us today for an evaluation or too see if you qualify to participate in one of our cutting edge treatment trials today.
Blepharitis is a very common inflammation of the eyelid margin. The most common cause of this condition is the overgrowth of bacteria which exist normally on our lids. As we age, the oil produced by our specialized eyelid glands becomes thicker. The eyelid bacteria consume this “sludgy” oil and excrete toxins which can irritate the surface of the eye. The symptoms of blepharitis are recurring redness, inflammation at the edge of the eyelid, burning, dryness, and crusting at the base of eyelashes.
Although there is no cure for blepharitis, it can be easily controlled. Artificial tears, hygienic lid scrubs, and at times medicated drops are the mainstays of therapy.
Allergies are a fairly common occurrence and can have adverse effects on the eyes. Redness, itching, tearing, burning, or stinging are among the most common eye problems for patients with allergies. All of these symptoms can be treated with eye drops or an antihistamine.
Corneal Abrasions and Recurrent Corneal Erosions
Corneal abrasions occur when the top layer of the cornea is scraped, often by inadvertent trauma. These are common occurrences and symptoms include pain, tearing, redness, and light sensitivity. Corneal abrasions are most often treated with antibiotic eye drops and artificial tears. More severe abrasions may be treated with bandage contact lenses.
When corneal abrasions result from contact with organic material, such as fingernails or wooden objects, the front layer of the cornea can spontaneously decompensate months to years after the initial injury. This leads to corneal abrasions for seemingly no reason, often experienced upon awakening. The symptoms and treatment are the same as a regular corneal abrasion. However, if occurring too frequently, other therapies can be performed to help prevent these recurrent corneal erosions.
Keratoconus affects 1 in 2,000 Americans and is one of the most common corneal dystrophies. Keratoconus is characterized by the progressive thinning of the cornea. Often people experience advancing astigmatism and blurred vision. The cornea can eventually thin to the point of scarring, which then forces surgical treatment with a corneal transplant. Fortunately new technology is available in the form of Corneal Cross-Linking which can stop the progression and often reverse keratoconus.
Any foreign object that comes in contact with your eye can be carrying bacteria, or create damage to the cornea that may allow bacteria to grow. This includes bacteria from contact lenses. A bacterial infection in the cornea is known as a corneal ulcer. Corneal ulcers are considered a serious condition and can threaten your vision. Symptoms are often pain, redness, tearing, and blurry vision. Examination by your ophthalmologist can easily diagnose a corneal ulcer and treatment often involves intensive antibiotic eye drop therapy. The sooner a corneal ulcer is detected, the better the prognosis. Corneal infections must not be taken lightly as they can lead to corneal scarring, which may require a corneal transplant.
Corneal dystrophy is traditionally a hereditary disease that happens when abnormal material grows or accumulates within one or more layers of the cornea of both eyes. There are multiple types of corneal dystrophy, classified by which layer of the cornea the disease affects.
Corneal dystrophies can be found during routine eye exams and some can be diagnosed with molecular genetic tests, often before symptoms begin to surface. Treatments will vary depending on the specific type of corneal dystrophy, ranging from observation to eye drops, ointments, antibiotics, special contact lenses, or even excimer laser treatment.
Genetic counseling may be of benefit for affected individuals and their families. If you have corneal dystrophy in your genetics, regular exams are the best preventative treatment.
Pseudophakic Bullous Keratopathy and Fuchs’ Endothelial Dystrophy
People who have end stage cataracts removed or undergo multiple surgical procedures may suffer damage to the most inner layer of the cornea called the endothelium. The endothelium normally functions to keep the cornea clear and free of fluid. As we age, our endothelium begins to slowly lose function and surgery, particularly on dense cataracts can accelerate the deterioration of our endothelium. Loss of the endothelium results in a swollen cornea leading to blurred vision, redness, and discomfort. This condition is known as Pseudophakic Bullous Keratopathy (PBK). Treatment often includes high concentration eye drops and ointment, and in time, often a corneal transplant. However, our cornea specialists at MedEye Associates now perform the latest technique called DSAEK, which is a much less invasive and much more effective treatment of PBK.
Some people are born with a genetic disorder characterized by a rapid loss of endothelium cells for reasons that are unclear to science. This disorder is known as Fuchs’ Endothelial Dystrophy. These patients experience the same symptoms at those with PBK, but at a much younger age. The treatment for Fuchs’ is often the same.