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Corneal Conditions

Diabetic Eye Care at St. Paul Eye Clinic

The cornea is the center of the eye through which we see. Normally, it is smooth and clear. But injury, disease, and certain medical conditions can make it cloudy and make vision difficult.

Removing some or all of the cornea and replacing it with corneal tissue from an organ donor can sometimes restore vision. This procedure is called corneal transplantation. According to the Eye Bank Association of America, nearly 50,000 corneal transplantations are performed in the United States yearly.

In all cases the medical history of each medical donor is carefully reviewed and blood tests are performed to check for infections prior to transplantation. If there is any doubt about the safety of corneal transplantation, the donated tissues are used for medical research instead of being transplanted into a patient’s eye.

Who needs corneal transplantation?

St. Paul Eye Clinic recommends corneal transplantation only after a careful examination of the eye. The most common reasons for the operation are:

  • Eye injury: Sometimes an injury damages the cornea so severely that it will not heal correctly. We might recommend a corneal transplant to improve vision or to close a wound to the eye.
  • Medical conditions: Some eye infections can damage the cornea and not heal. There are also certain medical conditions, such as Fuchs' Endothelial Dystrophy, that make the cornea cloudy. This condition may require replacement of the inner layers of the cornea.
  • Pseudophakic bullous keratopathy: This is corneal swelling and clouding after cataract surgery.
  • Keratoconus: This condition results in a cornea that is thin and weak and bulges outward into a cone shape. Keratoconus is initially managed with contact lenses and glasses but may ultimately require corneal transplantation.

Types of corneal transplantation

  • Penetrating keratoplasty: This type of transplantation replaces the entire cornea. This is commonly used in patients with keratoconus or corneal scars.
  • Endothelial keratoplasty: This newer type of corneal transplantation replaces just the inner layers of the cornea. It is used commonly in patients with Fuchs' Endothelial Dystrophy.

After corneal transplantation

After surgery, it is important not to put any pressure on the eye. It is best not even to touch or rub anywhere near the eye, so we will most likely put a shield over it. Wearing glasses or sunglasses will also help protect the eye.

We will prescribe special eyedrops to promote healing and prevent infection and transplant rejection. Patients will continue using some medication for several months after a corneal transplant.

The majority of corneal transplantations are successful. The operation is less successful in the presence of corneal infection or severe injury such as a chemical burn. In a small number of cases, new corneal tissue is rejected by the body even after a successful operation and where all medications were taken correctly.

It is not unusual for the transplanted cornea eye to have vision that is very different from the other eye. This difference may be very disturbing, but eyeglasses or contact lenses can help. Vision can change rapidly after corneal transplantation, so it is necessary to visit St. Paul Eye Clinic more often than usual.

Preserve Your Vision with Prompt Treatment

Don’t take chances with your precious eyesight. Call and schedule your screening appointment at the St. Paul Eye Clinic nearest you today or use our online appointment request form. We have several locations in St. Paul, Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin to serve you.