What is Corneal Disease?
Corneal disease is a serious condition affecting the cornea that can cause clouding, vision distortion and eventual blindness. The cornea is like the clear front window of the eye that transmits light to the interior of the eye and allows us to see clearly. There are many types of corneal disease. The three major types are keratoconus, Fuchs’ endothelial dystrophy and bulls keratopathy.
Keratoconus is a weakening and thinning of the central cornea. The cornea develops a cone-shaped deformity at a pace that can be rapid, gradual or intermittent. Keratoconus usually occurs in both eyes, but can occur in only one eye.
Fuchs’ endothelial dystrophy is a hereditary abnormality of the inner cell layer of the cornea called the endothelium. In a healthy eye, this layer pumps fluids out of the cornea, keeping it thin and crystal clear. An unhealthy endothelium does not properly pump fluids causing the cornea to swell and become cloudy which decreases vision.
Bullous keratopathy is a condition in which the cornea becomes permanently swollen. Damage to the inner layer of the cornea, the endothelium, causes a buildup of excess fluid in corneal tissue.
What are the symptoms of corneal disease?
The exact symptoms of corneal disease often depend on the type. When the cornea protrudes or steepens (keratoconus), vision becomes increasingly blurred and contact lens wear, which is often an early treatment for the disease, becomes difficult. The irregular shape of the cornea makes it difficult for the contact to stay on the eye. Fuchs’ endothelial dystrophy and bullous keratopathy may cause glare at night or in bright sunlight. As these conditions progress, vision may become foggy or blurry in the morning but improve as the day goes on. As the disease worsens, vision stays blurry later into the day or may not clear up at all. Corneal diseases can be very painful.
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, contact North Suburban Eye Specialists to set up an appointment with one of our experienced optometrists.
What causes corneal disease?
Corneal disease may be caused by one or more of the following factors:
- Bacterial, fungal or viral infections are common causes of corneal damage
- The aging process can affect the clarity and health of the cornea
- Bullous keratopathy occurs in a very small percentage of patients following cataract or intraocular lens implant surgeries
- Contact lens use
- Eye trauma
- Certain eye diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa, retinopathy of prematurity, and vernal keratoconjunctivitis
- Systemic diseases, such as Lebe’s congenital amaurosis, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Down syndrome and osteogenesis imperfecta
How is corneal disease diagnosed?
Using a slit lamp and advanced diagnostic technology such as corneal topography, your doctor can detect early cataracts, corneal scars, and other problems associated with the front structures of the eye. After dilating your eyes, your doctor will also examine your retina for early signs of disease – including certain corneal diseases.
How is corneal disease treated?
As with any serious eye infection, corneal disease should be treated immediately. Although corneal transplant is almost always the necessary treatment to restore vision when the cornea becomes clouded, there are other measures that can be taken to prolong vision in the early stages of disease such as special contact lenses or medication.
To catch and treat corneal disease early, schedule regular eye exams at North Suburban Eye Specialists to protect your vision.