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What are Diseases of the Cornea?

Diseases of the cornea are conditions or disorders that disrupt the normal functioning of the cornea. The cornea is a clear, transparent layer of tissue present in the front of the eye, which allows the passage of light into the eye and helps focus images on the inner surface of your eyeball. It also protects your eyes from infection and injury. 

Causes of Corneal Diseases

Diseases of the cornea may be caused by:

  • Infections of the cornea due to bacteria, virus, fungus or parasites
  • Trauma to the cornea such as abrasion or exposure to harmful chemicals
  • Genetic factors
  • Nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin A deficiency
  • Degenerative diseases 
  • Autoimmune disorders 
  • Allergies
  • Growths on the cornea
  • Ectasia (Thinning of the cornea)
  • Corneal damage due to eye conditions such as dry eye or glaucoma

Signs and Symptoms of Diseases of the Cornea

  • Common signs and symptoms of corneal diseases include:
  • Redness or cloudiness around the cornea
  • Blurry vision
  • Eye pain 
  • Tearing 
  • Light sensitivity
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

What happens when corneal diseases are left untreated? 

Left untreated, corneal diseases can result in vision loss and chronic eye pain. Prompt treatment during the early stages of the disease will help limit the severity and improve treatment outcome.

Diagnosis of Diseases of the Cornea

Your eye doctor will discuss your symptoms and medical history, perform a full eye examination, and may also order special tests such as:

  • Topography/keratometry, to study the corneal shape
  • Pachymetry, to measure corneal thickness
  • Microscopic imaging, to study corneal cells or identify infectious organisms
  • Biopsies
  • Cell cultures
  • Blood tests

Treatment Options for Diseases of the Cornea

The treatment offered will depend on the specific type of corneal disease. The various options include:

Nonsurgical Treatments for Diseases of the Cornea

Nonsurgical treatments for corneal diseases may include:

  • Eye drops
  • Oral medications
  • Patching
  • Special contact lenses
  • Treatment of any underlying systemic conditions, such as vitamin A deficiency

Surgical Treatments for Diseases of the Cornea

The surgical treatments for corneal diseases may include:

  • Laser eye surgery 
  • Keratoplasty
  • Corneal transplantation 

Treatment Prognosis for Diseases of the Cornea

Most diseases of the cornea are treatable and have a good prognosis if detected early.

Prevention of Diseases of the Cornea

You can reduce your likelihood of developing corneal diseases by getting enough vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, proper maintenance of contact lens and glasses to avoid infections, and the use of safety glasses when necessary to prevent eye injury.