Common Diseases of the Cornea
The cornea is the clear dome-shaped layer at the very front of the eye. The most important function of the cornea is to help us see clearly by focusing the light that comes into the eye. It also helps protect the eye from germs and bacteria. However, like any other part of the body, the cornea can be afflicted by a number of different diseases.
Normally our eyes are kept constantly moist by blinking, which spreads a tear film over the eye. Dry eye is an uncomfortable condition that occurs when the eyes do not create enough tears, or do not create the right type of tears or tear film. This can cause symptoms such as a burning sensation, redness or a scratchy feeling.
Keratoconus is a condition in which the cornea gradually thins and develops an abnormal curvature. It can cause blurry or double vision, difficulty with distance vision, and sensitivity to light.
Conjunctivitis is a common disorder affecting millions of adults and children each year. It can be caused by bacterial or viral infections, as well as allergies and exposures to irritants. It is commonly known as “pink eye” because the inflammation often makes blood vessels more visible and gives the eye a reddish appearance.
Conjunctivitis can be highly contagious and may recur or infect others if proper steps are not taken to control the spread of infection.
Blepharitis is a very common condition that causes inflammation of either the inner or outer eyelids. Both types of blepharitis can cause red or swollen eyelids, burning or itching sensation in the eye, crusting of the eyelids, and other discomfort.
A pterygium is a pinkish wedge-shaped growth on the cornea, which usually begins in the corner of the eye closest to the nose. It is a benign growth but can sometimes enlarge enough to interfere with vision. Doctors believe that excessive exposure to the sun’s UV rays may be a cause.
Uveitis is a general term which refers to a variety of diseases that cause inflammation. Most of these diseases affect the uvea, which is the middle part of the eye, but they can also affect other parts of the eye and body. These inflammatory diseases cause swelling, which can damage eye tissue. Uveitis can be a short-term or a chronic condition, and its impact on vision can range from mild to severe.
There are a wide variety of treatments for corneal disease, including medicated eye drops, procedures, and surgery. For more information on the specific symptoms, causes and treatments of each of these corneal diseases, please click on the links to the right.
A corneal transplant may be recommended if the cornea cannot be healed or repaired with medications or minor procedures. Depending on the severity of the problem, part of all the diseased tissue is removed and replaced with healthy corneal tissue. Corneal tissue comes from humans who have pledged to donate their organs prior to death. It is thoroughly tested prior to surgery.