The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped outer layer of your eye. It is comprised of five layers. Each is responsible for a separate function. This collection of cells, fluids and proteins must remain clear and undisturbed in order for you to see well, and to shield your eyes from dust and germs. The cornea protects your lens and iris, and is responsible for about 70 percent of the eye’s focusing power.
Unfortunately, the cornea is susceptible to a range of disorders, which are collectively referred to as corneal disorders. The following are some common corneal disorders that can affect this sensitive and important part of the eye.
Corneal disorders can be frightening, but researchers have developed many treatments. If you have any symptoms of corneal disorders, call us today so we can discuss your treatment options.
Iridocorneal Endothelial Syndrome
This syndrome most commonly affects women between 30 and 50 years old. Symptoms include changes to the iris, corneal swelling and the onset of glaucoma.
This skin disorder, also called erythema multiforme major, sometimes causes painful lesions on the eyelids. Stevens-Johnson syndrome can cause painful corneal blisters and even holes, leading to vision loss.
Pterygium is characterized by a pink tissue growth on the sclera (the white part of the eye), which seems to be the result of chronic exposure to ultraviolet light. In fact, because many surfers suffer from pterygium, the condition is often called surfer’s eye. Pterygium is not cancerous and may continue to grow gradually or stop growing after a certain point. If symptoms are mild, the condition does not require treatment. However, if the condition starts to interfere with vision, treatment may become necessary.
Pterygium Cause and Symptoms
A pterygium is spurred on by exposure to the sun and wind. For this reason, the condition is often referred to as surfer’s eye. Pterygia often cause a foreign body sensation and can become red and swollen. When a pterygium grows large enough, it can distort the shape of the eye, causing astigmatism and visual acuity problems.
Pterygium Diagnosis and Treatment
An eye care professional will make a diagnosis based on a close observation with a slit lamp. Pterygium treatment depends on the severity of symptoms, whether the pterygium is growing, and its causes. Mild cases can be treated with steroid eye drops. Severe cases require surgical removal, usually performed in the doctor’s office with local anesthetics. To prevent regrowth, an eye care provider might perform an autologous conjunctival autografting.
While keratoconus can happen at any stage of life, young people between the ages of 10 and 25 are most likely to develop this disorder. For individuals with keratoconus, their cornea, the clear layer in the front of your eye, gradually thins and begins to bulge outward. Keratoconus typically causes nearsightedness and astigmatism in both eyes.
This group of corneal disorders includes more than 20 variations. Each affects different parts of the cornea, causing it to get cloudy and compromising vision. Most of these dystrophies are inherited, affect both eyes equally and spread between layers of the cornea as they gradually progress.
Herpes Zoster (Shingles)
If you ever had chickenpox, you’re at higher risk of developing shingles later in life. Shingles can affect many parts of the body. If it travels to your eyes, your cornea can become inflamed and even scarred. Corneal damage might not be apparent until months after the shingles have otherwise disappeared.
The herpes simplex virus can cause recurring flare-ups of herpes in the eye. People who suffer from ocular herpes may notice painful sores on the eyelid or the eye’s surface, or an inflamed cornea. Untreated, it can lead to blindness.