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Understanding Corneal Disease

As the outermost layer of the eye, the cornea plays an important role in both sight and the protection of the eye from infection or foreign materials. Unfortunately, it is also vulnerable to many types of corneal disease.

At Contemporary Ophthalmology of Erie, our team of eye doctors can diagnose and treat conditions affecting the cornea to protect your vision, from keratoconus to Fuchs' Dystrophy. During a visit at our Erie, PA, office, Drs. Howard M. Levin, Vincent M. Imbrogno, and Ravinder Sabherwal can recommend the treatment options that are best suited to the type and severity of your corneal concern.

Role and Structure of the Cornea

The cornea is a clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye. It is responsible for focusing anywhere between 60 to 70 percent of the light that falls onto the retina. From outermost to innermost, there are three main layers of the cornea separated by thin membranes:

  • The epithelium, which protects against foreign materials and absorbs nutrients
  • The stroma, which conducts light
  • The endothelium, which pumps excess fluid out of the cornea

When the eye is healthy, these layers work in harmony to maintain clear vision and protect against dirt, germs, particles, and low amounts of UV light.

Diagram of the layers that make up the cornea
The cornea is composed of three main layers: the epithelium, the stroma, and the endothelium. Each plays an essential role in protecting the eye, refracting light, and keeping tissue healthy. 

Symptoms of Corneal Disease

While the specific signs may vary based on the exact condition, some common symptoms of corneal issues include:

  • Blurred, cloudy, or otherwise impaired vision
  • Severe eye pain
  • Tearing
  • Light sensitivity
  • Redness

However, because these symptoms are associated with a variety of eye issues, patients should schedule an appointment with one of our doctors if they experience any of them for an extended period of time.

Types of Corneal Diseases

Corneal disease can range from minor allergic conditions to serious degenerative disorders. Most commonly stem from:

  • Infection
  • Trauma
  • Dystrophies, such as Fuchs’ dystrophy
  • Ectasia, or thinning of the cornea
  • Allergies, such as keratoconjunctivitis
  • Growths
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Nutritional deficiencies

A number of common eye conditions such as dry eye and glaucoma can indirectly cause secondary damage, as well.

Diagnosis and Treatment

As with most vision-related diseases, diagnosing the condition early is essential to preserving your sight. The best way to do so is to schedule regular eye exams with your doctor. During these comprehensive screenings, our doctors carefully examine your eyes and eyelids, review your medical history, and assess your cornea using a slit lamp microscope. If there are signs of potential corneal disease, we can perform additional tests, such as a keratometry to study the shape of the cornea.

Our team can find the most appropriate treatment for you to protect your eye against serious issues.

Depending on the condition and your specific needs, we can then tailor treatment to improve corneal health. In many cases, we can offer non-invasive treatment with medicated eye drops or specialized contact lenses. However, more severe conditions may require surgical intervention. Our team can find the most appropriate treatment to protect your eye against serious issues.

Get Your Eyes Checked

If you have noticed any changes in your vision or the appearance of your eye, you should schedule an appointment right away. Without proper care, many small issues can become serious and vision-threatening. Contact our office online or call (814) 838-9555 to speak to a member of our team today.

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