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What is the Cornea?
The cornea is the dome shaped transparent tissue forming the front of the eye. It is the window into the rest of the eye. It serves as the protective covering and helps to focus or refract light waves onto the retina in the back of the eye. Diseases the affect the cornea can alter one’s vision by either clouding the cornea or altering its shape. The diseases below are just a few of the conditions that the surgeons at the Chicago Eye Institute are trained to correct.
The cornea can become cloudy and opaque from several diseases of the eye such as corneal ulcers from contact lens wear to herpes virus. While drops such as antibiotics, antivirals or steroids are the first line of defense in helping to heal the cornea, a scar can still result leading to chronic blurred vision. If the corneal scar does not improve over time, options ranging from laser correction such as PRK to surgery such as a corneal transplant may need to be performed. The physicians at CEI can discuss the best course of action for scarred corneas.
In eyes with keratoconus, the cornea progressively thins and protrudes in a cone shape. Patients with keratoconus will have severe blurred vision and possibly an intolerance to contact lenses due to a poor fit. This condition often begins when patients are in their late teens, often involves both eyes, may be hereditary and can be linked to severe rubbing of the eyes.
If keratoconus is stable, it can often be treated with custom contact lenses. If contact lenses cannot correct the problem, the doctors of the Chicago Eye Institute offer the latest surgical and non-surgical options available.
INTACS are semi-circular clear plastic rings inserted into the cornea to reshape it. This minimally invasive procedure has improved the vision of thousands of keratoconus patients and often avoids or delays the need for corneal transplant. Chicago Eye Institute surgeons have performed more INTACS surgeries than anyone else in the United States.
Collagen cross linking involves applying with riboflavin to the bed of the cornea and then using ultraviolet light to help strengthen the collagen fibers of the cornea to prevent progression of keratoconus.
A cornea transplant is performed with the keratoconus is severe enough to have caused scarring that none of the aforementioned treatments are possible. The cornea specialists at CEI can help guide patients to the most appropriate treatment modality.
The front of the eye, with the exception of the clear cornea, is covered by a loose layer of tissue called the conjunctiva. In some people the conjunctiva may develop a very prominent and elevated wedge shaped growth called a pterygium which may grow onto the cornea. This growth usually has a white color to it with tiny blood vessels growing quite visibly within it. It is important to note that a pterygium is not a “tumor.” It is a benign growth that may cause symptoms such as redness, irritation, burning and tearing.
It is felt that the most common cause of pterygium growth is excessive exposure of the eyes to bright sunlight, wind and dust. It is strongly advised that people spending excessive amounts of
time exposed to strong sunlight and wind wear appropriate eye protection in the form of UV absorbing sunglasses and brimmed hats.
Many people are unaware of the presence of a pterygium until it grows from the conjunctiva well onto the clear cornea at which time it may become very noticeable to them or others. Its growth over the cornea may actually affect vision by altering its shape or if it begins to reach the central area of the cornea. With such growth the pterygium may need to be surgically removed for either cosmetic or visual reasons. The biggest risk after pterygium excision is regrowth of the tissue. Amniotic membrane or conjunctival grafts are also performed to prevent the recurrence. Pterygium removal has a much greater chance of success,
including less scarring of the cornea, if done by a specialist in corneal surgery who regularly performs such delicate procedures.
For more information or to discuss your options, please reach out to the Chicago Eye Institute for further evaluation.