Changing Out the Front of Your Eye

The cornea is the clear covering of the front of the eye. It’s responsible for bending the light rays as they enter the eye. When the cornea is clear and the correct shape, we are able to see clearly because the cornea accurately focuses incoming light on the retina at the back of the eye.

But when the cornea becomes cloudy or misshapen, whether from injury, infection, or disease, it may be necessary to take your cornea off and replace it. Sounds wild, right?

Indeed, it is, but the surgical skills of Dr. Wilkins and Dr. Donohue make corneal transplants a viable treatment option for our patients from across the Portland area.

What is a corneal transplant?

A corneal transplant is a surgical procedure that replaces all or part of your damaged cornea with donor corneal tissue. Corneal transplants can be categorized as “full thickness” or “back layer.” The goal is to replace damaged or diseased cornea tissue that is impacting the patient’s vision beyond what can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Who would be a candidate for a corneal transplant?

Corneal eye disease is the fourth most common cause of blindness. It affects over 10 million people worldwide. If your cornea is damaged due to disease or injury, it can become swollen, scarred, or severely misshapen and this distorts your vision. A cornea transplant could be necessary if eyeglasses or contact lenses can no longer correct the vision enough to be functional. Sometimes, painful swelling can also dictate a transplant.

These are some conditions that can be treated with a cornea transplant:

  • An outwardly bulging cornea
  • Fuch’s dystrophy
  • A thinning cornea
  • Clouding of the cornea
  • Cornea scarring from injury or infection
  • Swelling of the cornea
  • Corneal ulcers
  • Complications from previous eye surgery

What are the different types of corneal transplant procedures?

  • Penetrating keratoplasty (PK) — This is a full thickness replacement of your damaged cornea. The entire cornea is removed and replaced by a donor cornea.
  • Descemet’s Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK) — As technology and surgical techniques have improved, full corneal transplants are no longer the only option. Instead, DSEK removes the diseased tissue from the back corneal layers, including the endothelium, along with the Descemet membrane, a thin layer of tissue that protects the endothelium from injury and infection. Donor tissue is then implanted to replace the removed tissue. The patient keeps the remaining healthy portions of his or her cornea.

DSEK is an option for patients with endothelial disease. This is a disease of the lining, the endothelial cell layer, of the cornea. These cells are responsible for pumping fluid out of the cornea. For the cornea to be clear, an exact level of hydration is vital. In patients with the condition known as Fuchs’ dystrophy, endothelial cells are increasingly lost over time, leading to swelling of the cornea and loss of vision.

For all of your eye care needs, there’s no better resource in the Portland area than The Eye Clinic. If it’s time for your regular eye exam, or if you’re in need of more elaborate procedures such as a corneal transplant, please give us a call at (503) 297-4718.

Posted in: Corneal Transplant

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St. Vincent: 503.297.4718