The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped covering of the eye. It plays a key role in focusing light that enters the eye onto the retina in the back of the eye. When the cornea suffers an injury or develops a disease, it may stop working properly, becoming swollen or scarred and scattering or distorting light. This causes glare and blurry vision. In the most advanced cases of cornea injury or disease, corneal transplantation may be needed to repair the damage and restore clear vision.
About Cornea Transplant
Cornea transplant replaces part of or the entire cornea with a healthy donor cornea. The donor cornea is extensively tested for clarity and potential viruses and infectious diseases.
Traditional, full thickness cornea transplant is also known as penetrating keratoplasty, or PKP. During PKP, a circular portion of the center of the diseased or damaged cornea is removed and replaced with healthy cornea tissue.
The alternative to full thickness cornea transplant is to replace the inner lining of the cornea with healthy donor tissue. This approach helps the eye to remain stronger and less susceptible to injury; it also produces a faster visual recovery. Our doctors offer both Descemet’s Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK) and Descemet’s Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK).
In general, it can take up to several months for the eye to adjust to its new cornea and recover clear vision. Patients must limit strenuous exercise and other activities while the eye heals, but can usually return to work after about a week.
When Is Cornea Transplant Needed?
Cornea transplant can be recommended in a variety of cases, including the following:
- Trauma or injury to the eye
- Advanced keratoconus
- Infections (e.g., herpes keratitis)
- Corneal dystrophy
- Corneal scarring
- Corneal ulcers
- Persistent corneal swelling
Fuchs’ Endothelial Dystrophy
Fuchs’ endothelial dystrophy is a progressive disease that causes corneal failure and can necessitate cornea transplant. The hereditary condition reduces the number of endothelial cells in the cornea, which are responsible for helping pump out extra fluid in the eye. This is critical to keeping the cornea clear for good vision. Without enough endothelial cells, fluid starts to build up in the cornea, causing the cornea to swell and cloud. The swelling can also cause eye discomfort and glare.
In the early stages of Fuchs’ endothelial dystrophy, the symptoms and visual disturbances may be mild. Special eye drops can help reduce excess water and the intraocular pressure in the eye. As the disease progresses, it usually causes more pain, discomfort and even cornea scarring.
In the advanced stages of the disease, where there is significant vision loss, surgical treatment becomes necessary. One option is to replace the inner layer of the cornea (DSEK or DMEK); another is to replace the entire cornea with a donor cornea (PKP).
Learn More about Cornea Transplant
If you have developed a corneal condition that is in the advanced stages, cornea transplant may help save your vision. For more information about the techniques we use and what the surgery entails, please schedule a consultation with our cornea specialists at one of our Rochester or Wexford, PA locations.