What Are Corneal Diseases And Conditions?
The cornea is the clear protective layer covering the outer portion of the eye. It shields the pupil, iris, and inner parts of the eye while focusing about 70% of the light entering the eye, making it essential for healthy, clear vision. When the corneas are irregularly shaped, clouded, or damaged due to disease or injury, it can significantly affect your vision. At Wicker Park Eye Center, board-certified ophthalmologist Dr. Daniel Tepper and his team offer state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment for a wide variety of corneal diseases, disorders, and injuries. Contact our Chicago, IL office today to schedule a comprehensive eye exam if you are experiencing vision issues or if you simply need an eye health check-up. Let us help make sure your corneas are healthy and clear so you can enjoy the best vision possible.
What Are The Most Common Corneal Diseases And Conditions?
Keratitis generally refers to an inflammation of the corneal tissue. This can result from an injury, such as a scratch, or wearing contact lenses for longer than intended. Bacterial infections are common in people who wear contacts, but infections can also be viral, parasitic, or fungal.
Minor abrasions, or scratches, of the cornea, typically heal quickly on their own. Deeper abrasions can cause scarring or vision problems.
When your eyes don't make enough tears to properly lubricate the eyes, it is a condition known as dry eye. It can cause discomfort and vision issues.
Corneal dystrophies are significant changes in the cornea affecting thickness or shape. Most are genetic and can worsen over time. They may have no symptoms, or they can cause pain and vision loss.
The most common type of corneal dystrophy, keratoconus results in progressive thinning of the cornea. Left untreated, the cornea will take on a cone shape and bulge outwards, affecting the ability to see clearly. Fuchs’ and map-dot-fingerprint are two other types of corneal dystrophy.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Corneal Diseases?
The symptoms of corneal diseases can vary greatly; sometimes they may present no symptoms at all. However, the most common symptoms of corneal diseases that patients at Wicker Park Eye Center experience often include:
- Eye pain
- Blurry or distorted vision
- Light sensitivity
- Extreme tearing, or epiphora
- Inflammation in one or both eyes
- Eye irritation and redness
- Corneal scarring
How Are Corneal Diseases Diagnosed?
Dr. Tepper uses several tests to determine the presence and severity of corneal diseases and conditions, including:
Slit Lamp Exam
To begin, Dr. Tepper will review your medical and family history and examine your eyes and eyelids using a slit lamp microscope. Often, this is sufficient to confirm injuries, such as a scratch on the cornea or signs of infection.
Evaluation Of Corneal Shape And Thickness
In some cases, especially when corneal dystrophy is suspected, Dr. Tepper may use topography or keratometry (noninvasive imaging tests) to evaluate the shape and curvature of the cornea. Much like a topographic map of the earth, corneal topography displays the elevation of different parts of the cornea. Pachymetry is a type of test which measures the thickness of the cornea.
Assess Cells And Tear Film
Cultures and biopsies can also shed light on your corneal health. For example, a more detailed assessment might look at the health of the endothelial cells, the outermost portion of the cornea. Healthy tears also play a key role in protecting the cornea.
How are corneal diseases and Conditions Treated?
Infections are typically treated with prescription drops and oral medications. Dr. Tepper may recommend antibiotics, antivirals, antiparasitics, or steroids. Salty eye drops can also offset the effects of Fuchs’ dystrophy and similar conditions.
Special Contact Lenses
Trauma due to injury or contact lenses is often treated with a special type of bandage lens. This protective measure allows the cornea to heal on its own. Keratoconus, in its earliest stages can also be managed with special contact lenses, which maintain the proper shape of the cornea.
Approved by the FDA for the treatment and management of keratoconus, this treatment uses riboflavin and ultraviolet light to strengthen and stabilize the cornea to slow and/or stop corneal thinning. This procedure is minimally invasive and does not require surgical incisions.
Some types of corneal dystrophy can be treated with phototherapeutic keratectomy (PTK), which combines ultraviolet (UV) light and laser technology to reshape the cornea.
In severe cases, healthy donor tissue is used to replace damaged corneal tissue. Advancements have resulted in more conservative transplant techniques with minimized risk of complications.
Corneal Diseases FAQ
Am I at risk of developing a corneal disease?
There are more than 20 types of corneal dystrophies that seem to run in families, although environmental and hormonal factors can play a role. Contact lens wearers and patients who are prone to allergies and dry eyes are also at a higher risk of developing lesions or slight injuries to the surface of the eye. Certain types of herpes can also affect the health of your corneas.
What are the most common corneal diseases and conditions?
The most common corneal diseases and conditions include corneal dystrophies, dry eye, keratitis, injuries to the cornea, and allergies.
How are corneal diseases diagnosed?
Corneal diseases can only be diagnosed with a thorough eye examination by a skilled ophthalmologist like Dr. Tepper at Wicker Park Eye Center. Tests can include a slit lamp exam and an evaluation of the corneas.
How are corneal diseases typically treated?
- Laser surgery
- Corneal transplant
- Artificial corneas
- Ointments and eye drops
Did You Know? — Facts about the corneas:
- Corneas contain no blood vessels; instead, they rely on the aqueous humor for nourishment
- They heal very quickly from minor injuries
- About 70% of the light coming into the eyes is focused by the corneas
- Shark corneas are so similar to human corneas that they have been used in human cornea transplants (but modern cornea transplants use human donor tissue)
Protect Your Corneas, Preserve Your Vision
Healthy corneas are essential to clear vision and overall eye health. If you are experiencing eye pain, sensitivity to light, or clouded vision, it could be a symptom of a corneal disease or condition. Protect your corneas and your vision by scheduling an in-depth eye examination with Dr. Daniel Tepper at Wicker Park Eye Center in Chicago, IL. Let us examine the health and condition of your corneas for accurate diagnosis and treatment of any possible corneal diseases to ensure you can enjoy healthy clear vision for years to come.