What is the Cornea?
The cornea is the clear, outermost layer of the eye. When light reflected off an object enters the eye, the cornea focuses the rays onto the retina at the back of the eye. The retina then converts the light rays into impulses, which are processed by the brain as a picture. The cornea must precisely focus light rays onto the retina for vision to be clear.
Symptoms of Corneal Damage
Disease or injury may scar, swell or cloud the cornea to the point where it may no longer clearly focus light on the retina, causing vision loss and blindness. Although minor scratches usually heal themselves, deeper wounds that penetrate the cornea may cause pain, extreme light sensitivity and blurred vision. These may be corrected with a corneal transplant (Keratoplasty), where a healthy donor cornea replaces your damaged cornea.
If Dr. Newman determines that you need a corneal transplant, your name will be placed on a list at your local eye bank. The wait is usually a few weeks to several months, depending on the eye bank. You and your new cornea will be thoroughly tested to ensure you are right for each other and the cornea is disease free.
Outpatient Corneal Surgery (Keratoplasty)
Corneal transplants are usually performed on an outpatient basis at Rockdale Medical Center. Before the procedure, you will be given a general or local anesthesia so that you feel no discomfort. Dr. Newman will first look through a surgical microscope to measure your cornea. Then, using a specialized cookie-cutter like instrument called a trephine, he will remove the damaged central portion of your cornea (called the button). A button of the same size is taken from the donor cornea and then secured to your eye using fine sutures. Keratoplasty surgery usually takes an hour.
A friend or relative will need to stay in hospital during your procedure, and drive you home afterwards. Your eye will be protected by a shield or patch while it heals, and you will be given prescription eye drops to use for several months to promote healing and prevent infection. An over-the-counter pain medication should relieve any discomfort you may have during recovery.
During the first few of weeks following the procedure, you will have several follow up visits, during which Dr. Newman will ensure you are healing properly. He will also perform corneal topography, computerized map of your cornea, to evaluate astigmatism, monitor corneal disease and detect any irregularities in corneal shape.
If you experience vision loss, redness, persistent pain and increased sensitivity to light, you may be experiencing a rare form of corneal rejection. Call our office immediately so we may prescribe antibiotic drops and steroid medication that should stop this rejection.