Various conditions affect the clear layer of the eye known as the cornea, which has an amazing ability to heal itself after disease or injury. Serious conditions, however, such as degenerative corneal diseases and corneal infections, need prompt treatment by an eye care specialist.
The team of top-quality ophthalmologists here at Suburban Eye Care Associates provides comprehensive care for a full range of conditions that affect the eye. Corneal conditions can cause clouding, blurring, scarring, and in severe cases, blindness. It’s important to schedule a visit with an eye specialist if you experience eye problems of any sort.
Understanding the cornea and its function
If you think of the eye like a camera, the cornea is the clear lens. Along with the white area of the eye (sclera), the cornea acts as a barrier against germs and other particles. The cornea is also key for vision. It filters and refracts light as it enters the eye. The outside curvature of the cornea determines how well you can see objects close up and farther away. Corneal damage from disease or injury can interfere with vision.
The cornea has three primary layers:
- Epithelium: The outer layer; prevents particles and germs from entering the eye
- Stroma: The thickest layer, found behind the epithelium and composed mostly of water and proteins that give it elastic form
- Endothelium: A single layer of cells between the stroma and the clear fluid in the front of the eye; acts as a pump, releasing excess water.
Like other parts of the eye, the cornea receives nutrient-rich blood from small blood vessels.
Conditions that affect the cornea and resulting symptoms
The specialists at Suburban Eye Care Associates conduct thorough eye examinations to check the health of your eyes and detect any problems. The following are some of the most common conditions that affect the cornea.
Keratoconus occurs when the normally round surface of the cornea thins and bulges outward in a cone shape. The change in shape affects how light enters the eye. Blurry vision and light sensitivity are the primary symptoms.
Causes of keratoconus include:
- Eye injury
- Eye disease
- Other diseases, like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
Keratoconus is a progressive condition, and eventually, a corneal transplant may be necessary. During this procedure, the damaged cornea is replaced with a donated cornea. Even after a transplant, you may need glasses or contact lenses to see clearly.
Fuchs endothelial dystrophy
Fuchs endothelial dystrophy (FED) causes a progressive deterioration of the endothelium, which becomes unable to efficiently remove excess water, causing blurry vision. Blurring typically occurs in the morning and improves during the day.
Over time, visual acuity decreases. In FED, the endothelium becomes stressed and produces deposits called guttae. The deposits accumulate in the cornea, worsening vision problems.
In bullous keratopathy, the cornea becomes chronically swollen. This occurs when the endothelium becomes damaged and no longer pumps fluid properly.
Keratitis is an inflammation of the cornea that can occur when infectious organisms such as fungi or bacteria enter the eye. Sleeping, swimming, and showering while wearing contact lenses increase the risk of keratitis.
Symptoms of keratitis include:
- Eye pain
- Blurry vision
- Light sensitivity
Treatment usually includes antibiotic or antifungal eye drops.
Herpes simplex virus I (HSV I) can cause a viral infection of the eye. HSV I is the same virus that causes cold sores. Ocular herpes causes sores on the surface of the cornea that can lead to scarring and vision problems. In people with healthy immune systems, ocular herpes is rare.
Map-dot-fingerprint dystrophy is a corneal condition that causes abnormal folds of the epithelium. This causes patterns in the cornea that look like maps, dots, and small fingerprints.
MDFD usually affects adults over the age of 40, though sometimes children develop hereditary MDFD. It’s usually painless and doesn’t cause vision problems. In some cases, however, the epithelium may break down, causing blurry vision, eye pain, astigmatism, and nearsightedness.
MDFD treatment usually isn’t required; topical lubricating ointments can help.
Scheduling a visit for an eye exam is the best place to start in getting to the root of any eye problems you may be experiencing. To get started, call any of our three locations in Huntington Valley, Jenkintown, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or book online.