What is the cornea?
The cornea is the transparent outer layer at the front of the eye. It is positioned directly in front of the iris and pupil, allowing light to enter the eye. The cornea has five layers: the epithelium, the stroma, and the endothelium.
Epithelium: Outer protective layer that creates a barrier from dust, debris, and bacteria.
Bowman’s Layer: This is a smooth layer located between the epithelium and the stroma in the cornea of the eye
Stroma: Center layer that makes up 90% of the cornea is comprised on collagen and other structural materials.
Descemet’s Membrane: A layer of collagen fibers positioned between the Stroma and the Endothelium.
The endothelium is a single layer of squamous endothelial cells on the Descemet membrane. This innermost layer of the cornea forms a border between circulating blood and fluids.
Cornea health is important to maintain to sustain vision. Infections and diseases are common conditions that require seeing an optometrist or ophthalmologist for diagnosis and care. These conditions can range from simple to complex. Such conditions can result in clouding and distortion of vision and potential blindness. While infections related to contact lenses, abrasions from trauma, and inflammation are common but do require treatment—additional ailments impacting the cornea include keratoconus, Fuchs’ endothelial dystrophy, and pterygia, among many others. Our experienced team of ophthalmologists is available for consultation and continued care.
Signs of Corneal Infection or Disease
Corneal Abrasions – symptoms include the feeling that something is stuck in your eye, red, painful, watery eyes, blurry or hazy vision, and being extra sensitive to light.
Corneal Ulcers – symptoms include redness of the eye, severe pain, and soreness of the eye, the feeling of having something in your eye, tearing, pus or other discharge, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, swelling of the eyelids, a white spot on your cornea that you may or may not be able to see when looking in the mirror
Dry Eye Syndrome – a common condition where insufficient tears are produced to maintain the moisture layer on the outer portion of the cornea causing damage. This can be the result of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) or the result of the structure of the eyelid not completely closing. Blepharitis, a common infection, is also a potential contributor to (MGD) and Dry Eye Syndrome.
Contact Lens Irritation or Infection – contact lenses are designed to be safe and to improve vision. However, when they are not properly worn or cared for it can increase the risk of corneal damage or potential infection.
Keratoconus – a progressive condition weakening and thinning the cornea’s central part. This can result in a cone-shaped deformity. Diagnosis and treatment early is important to prevent progression. Untreated, the condition can result in blurry vision, double vision, nearsightedness, astigmatism, and light sensitivity.
Fuchs’ Endothelial Dystrophy – a condition that affects the endothelium layer of the cornea. Symptoms include glare, blurry vision, pain, or grittiness from tiny blisters on the surface of your cornea. If left untreated, it can lead to Bullous Keratopathy, a secondary condition in which the cornea becomes permanently swollen.
Causing of Cornea Damage or Disease
- Infection: Bacterial, fungal, and viral infections are common causes of corneal damage.
- Cataract and intraocular lens implant surgery
- Contact lenses
- Eye trauma
- Certain systemic diseases
Diagnosing Corneal Infections, Damage, or Disease
Your doctor will examine your eyes using multiple instruments to test and examine the health of your eyes and their structure. Dilation and special dye drops may be required during a comprehensive examination. The examinations are non-invasive and painless. You may require a ride after the appointment if dilated for the exam.
Treatment for Cornea Infections, Damage, or Disease
If you have any symptoms or conditions, do hesitate to reach out for an exam. It is better to protect your vision by treating immediately than trying to repair vision loss. Minor conditions may require antibiotics or steroid drops to treat; other conditions may require a more extensive care plan. Using the drops from another patient or Visine is not recommended. Please speak to your doctor regarding treatment.
With more permanent damage, corneal transplantation may be required. With advances in medicine, procedures such as Descemet Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK) and Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK) may also be selected to help restore vision.
We are here for you to support your ocular health and treatment needs.