What is the function of the Cornea?

Because the Cornea is as smooth and clear as glass but is strong and durable, it helps the Eye in two ways:

  • It helps to shield the rest of the Eye from germs, dust, and other harmful matter. The Cornea shares this protective task with the Eyelids, the Eye socket, tears, and the sclera, or white part of the Eye.
  • The Cornea acts as the Eye's outermost Lens. It functions like a window that controls and focuses the entry of light into the Eye. The Cornea contributes between 65-75 percent of the Eye's total focusing power.
  • The Cornea also serves as a filter, screening out some of the most damaging ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths in sunlight. Without this protection, the lens and the retina would be highly susceptible to injury from UV radiation.
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How does the Cornea Respond to Injury?

The Cornea copes very well with minor Injuries or Abrasions. If the highly sensitive Cornea is scratched, healthy cells slide over quickly and patch the injury before infection occurs and vision is affected. If the scratch penetrates the Cornea more deeply, however, the healing process will take longer, at times resulting in greater pain, blurred vision, tearing, redness, and extreme sensitivity to light. These symptoms require professional treatment. Deeper scratches can also cause Corneal scarring, resulting in a haze on the Cornea that can greatly impair vision. In this case, a Corneal transplant may be needed.

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What are some Diseases and Disorders affecting the Cornea?

Some Diseases and Disorders of the Cornea are:

Allergies- Allergies affecting the Eye are fairly common, particularly when the weather is warm and dry. Symptoms can include redness, itching, tearing, burning, stinging, and watery discharge, although they are not usually severe enough to require medical attention. Antihistamine decongestant Eye Drops can effectively reduce these symptoms. Conjunctivitis- This term describes a group of diseases that cause swelling, itching, burning, and redness of the conjunctiva, the protective membrane that lines the Eyelids and covers exposed areas of the sclera, or white of the Eye. Conjunctivitis can spread from one person to another. Conjunctivitis can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, allergy, environmental irritants, a contact lens product, Eye Drops, or Eye Ointments. At its onset, conjunctivitis is usually painless and does not adversely affect vision. For some forms of conjunctivitis, treatment will be needed. If treatment is delayed, the infection may worsen and cause Corneal inflammation and diminished vision.

Corneal Infections / keratitis / ulcers- Sometimes the Cornea is damaged after a foreign object has penetrated the tissue, such as from a poke in the Eye. At other times, bacteria or fungi / viruses can infect the Cornea. Situations like these can cause painful inflammation called keratitis. These infections can reduce visual clarity, produce Corneal discharges, and perhaps erode the Cornea. Corneal infections can also lead to Corneal scarring, which can impair vision and may require a Corneal transplant.

As a general rule, the deeper the Corneal infection, the more severe the symptoms and complications. It should be noted that Corneal infections, although relatively infrequent, are the most serious complication of Contact Lens Wear.

Minor Corneal infections are commonly treated with anti-bacterial Eye drops. If the problem is severe, it may require more intensive antibiotic or anti-fungal treatment to eliminate the infection, as well as steroid Eye drops to reduce inflammation. Frequent visits to an Eye care professional may be necessary for several months to eliminate the problem.

Dry Eye- the continuous production and drainage of tears is important to the Eye's health. Tears keep the Eye moist, help wounds heal, and protect against Eye infection. In people with dry Eye, the Eye produces fewer or less quality tears and is unable to keep its surface lubricated and comfortable. The main symptom of dry Eye is usually a scratchy or sandy feeling as if something is in the Eye. Other symptoms may include stinging or burning of the Eye; episodes of excess tearing that follow periods of very dry sensation; a stringy discharge from the Eye; and pain and redness of the Eye. Dry Eye is more common in women, especially after menopause. Surprisingly, some people with dry Eye may have more watering as a symptom. Dry Eye can occur in climates with dry air, as well as with the use of some drugs, including antihistamines, nasal decongestants, tranquilizers, and anti-depressant drugs. People with connective tissue diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can also develop dry Eye. It is important to note that dry Eye is sometimes a symptom of Sjögren's syndrome, a disease that attacks the body's lubricating glands, such as the tear and salivary glands. A complete physical examination may diagnose any underlying diseases. Treatment: Artificial tears, which lubricate the Eye, are the principal treatment for dry Eye. Sterile ointments / gel are sometimes used at night in more severe form of dry Eye. Using humidifiers, wearing wrap-around glasses when outside and avoiding outside windy and dry conditions may bring relief. For people with severe cases of dry Eye, temporary or permanent closure of the tear drain with punctual plugs may be helpful.

Keratoconus- is a progressive thinning of the Cornea. It arises when the middle of the Cornea thins and gradually bulges outward, forming a rounded cone shape. This abnormal curvature changes the Cornea's refractive power, producing moderate to severe distortion (astigmatism) and blurriness (nearsightedness) of vision. Keratoconus may also cause swelling and a sight-impairing scarring of the tissue. Keratoconus usually affects both Eyes. At first, people can correct their vision with Eyeglasses. But as the astigmatism worsens, they must rely on specially fitted Contact Lenses to reduce the distortion and provide better vision. Although finding a comfortable Contact Lens can be an extremely frustrating and difficult process, it is crucial because a poorly fitting lens could further damage the Cornea and make wearing a contact lens intolerable. In very severe forms, a Corneal transplant may be needed. A new modality called collagen crosslinking is being done for select cases of keratoconus.

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