What is the Cornea?
The cornea is the dome-shaped transparent layer that covers the iris or colored portion of the eye. It protects the iris and lens and help focus light on the retina where the nerves that sense light are located. A properly functioning cornea is vital to normal vision. A number of diseases can affect the cornea. With early treatment, however, these diseases can often be controlled and vision loss averted.
A foreign object in the eye can scratch the surface of the cornea, the cornea may become infected. Such infections are called keratitis and can reduce visual clarity, produce discharges and sometimes cause corneal scarring. Antibiotic eye drops are the most common treatment.
A corneal dystrophy is a condition in which parts of the cornea lose their normal clarity due to a buildup of cloudy material. There are over 20 corneal dystrophies that can affect all parts of the cornea. These diseases are usually inherited and progress gradually. They affect both eyes equally and most commonly occur in people who are otherwise completely healthy. The effects of corneal dystrophies range from painful episodes with severe visual impairment to no effect on vision.
Herpes simplex often begins with slightly painful eyes that are watery, red and sensitive to light. Corneal swelling causes hazy vision. It does not respond to antibiotics because it is a virus, and usually goes away on its own. Herpes zoster is a virus that grows on nerves and sometimes spreads to the head and neck, occasionally infecting the cornea. Complications include decreased corneal sensitivity, so that foreign matter in the eye is difficult to feel, and permanent glaucoma. An oral anti-viral treatment and eye drops are most often prescribed to reduce the risk of infection.
Iridocorneal Endothelial (ICE) Syndrome
ICE syndrome is actually a grouping of three closely linked conditions. Crucial cornea cells move off the cornea onto the iris. This loss of cells from the cornea often leads to corneal swelling, and can cause glaucoma. ICE syndrome is more common in women and usually diagnosed between ages 30-50. The cause of this disease is unknown. While we do not yet know how to keep ICE syndrome from progressing, the glaucoma associated with the disease can be treated.
A pterygium is a pinkish, triangular-shaped tissue growth on the cornea. Some pterygia grow slowly throughout a person’s life, while others stop growing after a certain point. Pterygia are more common in sunny climates and people ages 20-40. Scientists do not know what causes pterygia to develop. Often people with pterygia have spent much time outdoors, so ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun may encourage development.
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) is a disorder of the skin that can also affect the eyes. SJS is characterized by painful, blistery lesions on the skin and the mucous membranes of the eyelids and other areas. SJS can cause serious eye problems, such as conjunctivitis, iritis, and corneal blisters holes. In some cases, the complications from SJS can lead to vision loss. The most common cause of SJS is an allergic drug reaction, particularly to sulfa drugs. Treatment for the eye may include artificial tears, antibiotics, or corticosteroids. About one-third of all patients diagnosed with SJS have recurrences of the disease.
Symptoms of corneal disease
There are several diseases that can affect the cornea. Symptoms may include painful, watery eyes that are sensitive to light and bloodshot. Other symptoms are dry eyes, pain and eyelid swelling. Without treatment, a loss of vision may result if not treated promptly.
Do you have a corneal disease?
The best way to identify whether you have corneal disease is to make an appointment with an eye care professional. The doctor will carefully examine all aspects of your eye and its function to identify any problems. The doctor will then review treatment options with you. As a reminder, any time you are not seeing clearly, you should immediately call for an appointment with an eye care professional.
Here at The Eye Centers of Racine & Kenosha we keep up to date on new research and new treatments. Call 262 637 0500 today! to scheduled your appointment.
Have a question? ASK US
Take your first step toward clearer vision.