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What is
Corneal Diseases?

Corneal disease is a group of conditions that affect your cornea (the clear window at the front of your eye). Common types include keratitis, corneal dystrophy and corneal ectasia. Causes range from genetic mutations to eye injuries.

Risk Factors


Eye Pain

Many corneal diseases can cause eye pain, which may vary in intensity from mild discomfort to severe, stabbing pain. This pain may be constant or intermittent.

Redness of the eye (conjunctival injection) is a common sign of corneal problems. The cornea itself does not contain blood vessels, but inflammation or injury can cause the surrounding blood vessels to dilate, leading to redness.

Corneal diseases can result in changes to the corneal shape or clarity, leading to blurred or distorted vision. This can make it difficult to see clearly or focus on objects.

Some corneal diseases can irritate the eye’s surface, leading to excessive tearing or watery eyes.

Increased sensitivity to light is a common symptom of corneal diseases. Bright lights or sunlight can be particularly uncomfortable or painful to individuals with corneal issues.

In some cases, corneal diseases can lead to a significant decrease in visual acuity. This can range from mild vision impairment to severe vision loss.

To protect the eye from further irritation, individuals with corneal problems may blink or squint more frequently.

It is important to note that these symptoms can vary depending on the specific corneal disease and its severity. If you experience any persistent eye symptoms, it is advisable to consult an eye care professional for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Treatment Types

  • Antibiotics: Bacterial infections of the cornea are typically treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointments.
  • Antiviral Medications: Viral corneal infections, such as herpes simplex virus (HSV) keratitis, may require antiviral medications.
  • Antifungal Medications: Fungal keratitis is treated with antifungal eye drops or oral antifungal drugs.
  • Anti-inflammatory Drugs: Corticosteroid eye drops or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce inflammation associated with various corneal diseases.
  • Artificial Tears: Lubricating eye drops or ointments can alleviate dryness and discomfort in conditions like dry eye syndrome.
  • Corneal Transplant (Keratoplasty): In cases of severe corneal damage or disease, a corneal transplant may be necessary. This involves replacing the damaged corneal tissue with a healthy donor cornea.
  • Phototherapeutic Keratectomy (PTK): PTK is a laser procedure used to treat corneal dystrophies, scars, and surface irregularities by removing a thin layer of the cornea.
  • Cross-linking (CXL): This procedure is used to strengthen the cornea in cases of progressive conditions like keratoconus.
  • Amniotic Membrane Transplant: Amniotic membrane transplantation can promote healing and reduce inflammation in certain corneal diseases.
  • Pterygium Surgery: Pterygium, a growth on the cornea caused by UV exposure, may require surgical removal.

Specialty contact lenses, such as rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses or scleral lenses, may be prescribed to improve vision and comfort in some corneal conditions, like keratoconus.

Patients with corneal diseases should follow specific hygiene and lifestyle recommendations, such as proper contact lens care, avoiding eye rubbing, and protecting the eyes from environmental irritants.

In certain cases where a traditional corneal transplant is not feasible, artificial corneas or keratoprostheses may be considered.

The choice of treatment depends on the individual’s diagnosis, the stage of the disease, and the patient’s overall health. Treatment plans are typically determined by an ophthalmologist or cornea specialist after a thorough evaluation and assessment of the condition.

Early diagnosis and timely intervention are crucial for the successful treatment of corneal diseases and the preservation of vision. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cornea, and what is its role in vision?

The cornea is the transparent front surface of the eye. Its primary function is to refract or bend light as it enters the eye, allowing us to focus on objects and enabling clear vision.

Common corneal diseases include keratoconus, Fuchs’ dystrophy, corneal infections (bacterial, viral, fungal), corneal abrasions, corneal dystrophies, and corneal ulcers, among others.

Symptoms can include eye pain, redness, blurry or distorted vision, light sensitivity (photophobia), tearing, foreign body sensation, and decreased vision, depending on the specific condition.

Diagnosis typically involves a comprehensive eye examination, including visual acuity tests, slit-lamp biomicroscopy, and sometimes corneal imaging or diagnostic tests. In some cases, a corneal biopsy or cultures may be necessary.

Some corneal diseases can be prevented or their risk reduced by practicing good eye hygiene, avoiding eye injuries, using proper contact lens care, and protecting the eyes from harmful UV radiation.

The outcome depends on the specific disease. Some corneal diseases can be managed effectively, while others may require ongoing treatment or surgical intervention.

In some cases, untreated or severe corneal diseases can result in vision loss or legal blindness. However, with timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment, many individuals can maintain or regain good vision.