The cornea is the clear tissue that sits in front of the pupil and iris. When a cornea becomes diseased or damaged then surgery is the treatment involved, but how do you know if your cornea is damaged and what process follows?
Like any eye condition a person will notice a slight affect to their vision and this will normally give them the push needed to go and visit an optician.
Eduard Zirm carried out the first cornea transplant in 1905. This is believed to be the first successful type of transplant surgery ever recorded.
Testing for damage to the cornea
An optician will test all aspects of a persons vision and should be able to give them a full description of what is causing the affect on their vision. Should the optician find that corneal damage is the cause they will refer the patient to an ophthalmologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases and surgery related to the visual pathways.
The ophthalmologist will examine the eye more in depth than the optician; discuss the condition of the eye and possible treatments available to the patient. If surgery is the treatment the ophthalmologist decides is the right course of action then they will discuss the risk factors involved with surgery, what the surgery entails and ask the patient to sign a consent form so the surgery may be carried out.
What does the surgery involve?
This surgery is carried out on an outpatient basis, upon arrival the patient will be checked over by doctors to make sure they are ready for the surgery ahead.
The surgery involves replacing the damaged or diseased cornea with the healthy cornea of a deceased donor. This is achieved by stitching a metal ring to the sclera (a white, protective layer of the eye that is fibrous), after this is done a surgical instrument called a Trephine is used to cut a round piece out of the cornea. The donated cornea is then put in place by the surgeon using forceps before using a running stitch to keep the cornea in place.
Once this is complete the surgeon removes the metal ring and places antibiotic drops into the eye for protection before patching the eye up, the patient is left in a recovery area for the anesthetic to wear off before being examined by the doctor and being allowed to go home.
Risks involved with corneal eye surgery
Although anti biotic eye drops minimizes the potential risk of infection, it cannot remove the risk altogether. Should the eye become infected post surgery, it may cause complications as it takes a lot more time to heal than a cut to the skin.
The more dangerous risk with corneal eye surgery is the failure of the corneal graft, this can occur at any point after the transplant, even many years or decades. Medical or surgical treatment is the only type of resolution should graft failure occur.
Image: Kate Whitley, Wellcome Images