Corneal Disorder Treatment
Swedish provides advanced treatment for all kinds of vision problems — including corneal disorders. Our surgical facilities are fully equipped and state-of-the-art. And our highly skilled ophthalmic surgeons, nurses and technicians bring a high level of experience and teamwork to every surgical procedure.
Appointments & Referrals
To schedule a routine eye exam, or consult with a physician about surgery, contact a Swedish ophthalmologist.
About corneal disorders
What is a corneal disorder?
First, it's important to understand something about the cornea itself. The cornea is the front window to the eye. It allows light into the eye and bends (refracts) the light rays to help the lens focus them upon the retina. The retina then captures and transmits images to the brain. To perform properly, the cornea must be crystal clear and have the proper curvature. If the cornea is not perfectly clear, vision can be dramatically decreased. And, if the cornea is irregularly shaped or damaged, it will cause blurred vision. These are symptoms of a corneal disorder.
What causes corneal disorders?
There are many causes of corneal disorders. One of the most common is keratoconus, a disease that causes the cornea to undergo progressive thinning and thus protrude outward, forming a conelike curvature. This irregular curvature leads to blurred and distorted vision. Keratoconus most commonly occurs in both eyes, but can occur in only one eye. Other causes of corneal disorders include:
- Eye injuries
- Hereditary corneal disease
- Corneal damage from previous eye surgery
Who gets keratoconus?
Keratoconus is not one of the most common eye diseases, but it is by no means rare. It has been estimated to occur in one out of every 2,000 persons in the general population. The disease usually shows up in young people during puberty or in their late teens. It is found in all parts of the United States and the rest of the world, and it has no known significant geographic, cultural or social pattern.
What are the symptoms of keratoconus?
Blurring and distortion of vision are the earliest symptoms. Keratoconus can progress slowly for 10 to 20 years. Early on, vision may be only slightly affected. However, as the disease progresses, vision may be distorted.
Is treatment necessary?
Yes. In the earliest stages of keratoconus, ordinary glasses may correct the mild nearsightedness (when you can see things better near than far) and astigmatism (defect of a lens that prevents light rays from meeting at a single point, causing blurry vision) that occur with this disorder. When glasses are no longer effective, special contact lenses may be needed.
What other treatment options do I have?
A corneal transplant is sometimes necessary to treat keratoconus and other corneal disorders.
How do I get a donor cornea?
Once you and your ophthalmologist have decided that a corneal transplant is right for you, your name is put on a list at the nearest eye bank. When tissue becomes available and has been checked to ensure its suitability, your doctor is contacted and arrangements are made for proceeding with the transplant.
What's involved in a corneal transplant?
Using a surgical microscope and delicate instruments, your ophthalmologist will first measure the eye to determine the size of the corneal transplant. He or she will then carefully remove the diseased or injured cornea and sew the donor cornea in its place. The surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis. General or local anesthesia may be used.
How safe is a corneal transplant?
There are risks with any type of surgical procedure. However, corneal transplants have the highest success rate of any transplant procedure performed today.
Are there any complications from a corneal transplant?
Possibly. Your body can reject the donor cornea, but the procedure can be repeated with success. Signs of rejection include persistent discomfort, light sensitivity, redness of the eye and change in vision. Other complications that may occur are infection, bleeding, swelling, retinal detachment and glaucoma. Fortunately, these complications are infrequent and treatable.
How long will I be in surgery?
Corneal-transplant surgery may take between one and two hours.
Will treatment fully restore vision?
The success in restoring vision usually depends more on the original cause of the corneal disorder. For example, the success rate with corneal transplants for keratoconus is about 95 percent, while the success rate for transplants due to infections may be lower. Following your corneal transplant, chances are you will still need to wear glasses or contact lenses for optimal vision.
How much discomfort should I expect right after the transplant and in the days to follow?
The sutures used to sew the donor cornea in place are barely visible and do not cause pain. However, your eye may feel scratchy or irritated for a few days following surgery. Your doctor will prescribe eye drops to help prevent infection and rejection of the donor corneal tissue.
What happens after the corneal transplant?
Corneal transplants are done as an outpatient procedure. Following your surgery, you'll most likely go home after a short stay in the Swedish Eye Center recovery area. Once home, your ophthalmologist will advise you to avoid lifting and other strenuous activities for a few months. Until the eye is healed, you will also need to wear glasses or an eye shield. Your doctor will remove the sutures as the cornea heals.
When will my vision stabilize?
The improvement in your vision will be gradual. It may take six to 12 months for the cornea to stabilize.
Will I need any follow-up visits?
Your ophthalmologist will probably want to see you one to five days after surgery and again for regular checkups to be sure your body isn't rejecting the transplant.