The dome-shaped front surface of your eye is called the cornea. It is the first point at which light is refracted as it enters the eye. Irregularities in its curvature can cause nearsightedness, farsighedness, or astigmatism. Corrective eyewear compensates for these irregularities, while treatments like LASIK eye surgery are used to refine the curvature and reduce a patient’s need for corrective eyewear. Trauma, disease, and infection to the cornea can all have a significant impact on your eyesight, as well as your overall ocular health.
Understanding the Role of the Cornea in Your Vision
The cornea is made up of three main layers: the epithelium, stroma, and endothelium. The outer layer of the cornea, the epithelium, is the first line of defense against irritants, and absorbs oxygen and nutrients from tears. The largest corneal layer, the stroma, is composed mainly of water and proteins. This tissue is reshaped during LASIK surgery, allowing the cornea to correctly focus light entering the eye. The endothelium is the inner layer, and it is composed of just a single layer of cells positioned between the stroma and aqueous humor – the clear, gel-like fluid inside of the anterior chamber eye. This tissue works as a pump and removes excess water that has been absorbed by the stroma.
The cornea refracts light as it enters the eye. Light is refracted once again by the crystalline lens, which lies behind the iris, the ring of tissue that distinguishes an eye as being blue, brown, or other colors. Finally, light reaches the retina, which is composed of light-sensitive tissue that translates light into electrical signals carried through the optic nerve to the brain, which interprets the signals as images.
Although many common corneal conditions are accompanied by obvious symptoms, regular screenings with an experienced eye doctor are the best way to protect your eyes. During an examination, we can quickly determine whether your cornea is suffering from infection, disease, or any other factors that could affect your ocular health and vision.
The tissue of the cornea can usually repair itself quickly. Deep injury or more substantial trauma can result in a variety of symptoms, including blurred vision, redness, tearing, sensitivity to light, and pain or discomfort. In some cases, injury or infection can lead to corneal scarring.
Incorrect contact lens use can cause corneal complications. For example, if lenses are worn longer than your doctor advises, abnormal blood vessels can grow into the cornea. Contacts can also contribute to the development of keratitis, a condition causing pain, irritation, and redness. Shingles, or herpes zoster ophthalmicus, can also cause inflammation of the corneal tissue.
Keratoconus is a progressive disease that causes the cornea to become conical in shape, distorting vision over time. Pterygium and pinguecula are non-cancerous growths that form on or near the cornea.
Recurrent corneal erosion is a condition that causes the epithelium to repeatedly detach from the underlying tissue. Corneal dystrophies, including Fuchs’ endothelial dystrophy, Reis-Bücklers dystrophy, and Theil-Behnke dystrophy, are rare genetic disorders that cause a weakness of the corneal endothelium.
Experience You Can Trust
The best defense against corneal complications is early detection, which is why it is so important to undergo regular vision screenings. Our doctors excel in the treatment of a range of corneal conditions. In severe or advanced cases, penetrating keratoplasty, or traditional cornea transplant may be recommended.