Newark’s Leading Corneal Disorder Treatments
Eye Care of Delaware brings you the leading cornea specialists in Newark, DE. With over two decades of delivering eye care to patients in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, we pride ourselves on our safe and reliable surgical procedures. There are several conditions that can affect the cornea, leading to issues like blurred vision, pain, sensitivity to light and more. A consultation with Dr. Mitchell will identify the underlying issues to find the best corneal disease treatment for you.
What Is the Cornea?
The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped layer of tissue on the surface of the eye. It provides a window for light to pass through on its way to the lens. The cornea serves two functions:
- First, it helps protect the eye from dust, germs and other harmful matter.
- Second, it helps us focus. The cornea bends or refracts light entering the eye onto the natural lens. The lens further refocuses the light onto the retina.
In order for us to see clearly, the cornea and lens must focus the light precisely on the retina. This refractive process is often compared to the way a camera works. The cornea and lens in the eye act just like a camera’s lens. Think of the retina as representing the film in the back of a camera. If the cornea is unable to properly focus the light, or if the cornea is cloudy, then the retina will receive a blurry image.
Common Diseases and Disorders That Affect the Cornea
Many diseases can affect the cornea and cause pain or even vision loss. Disease, infection or injury can cause the cornea to swell (called edema), or to degrade (become cloudy and reduce vision). Some of these conditions include the following.
- Infections and Ulcers
- Corneal Abrasions
- Dry Eye
Depending on the underlying problem, treatment for corneal conditions can take many forms. Some issues may resolve on their own, many others can be treated with medication, and some may require surgery.
A corneal infection, also called a microbial keratitis (or a corneal ulcer), occurs when the cornea becomes damaged due to bacteria, fungi, virus, or by a foreign body. Corneal infections can be very painful, significantly impact your vision – and can take weeks to resolve. Any infection in the cornea can lead to a corneal ulcer or scar formation. In severe cases, or if not properly treated, a corneal infection can even cause blindness.
Most corneal infections result from bacteria, and people who wear contact lenses are at a higher risk of infection. A contact lens that causes irritation – or one that is not properly cleaned – may introduce bacteria into the eye. This demonstrates exactly why good contact lens hygiene is important. Sleeping in contact lenses is the largest risk factor for corneal infections, as it will increase the risk of this issue by 15 times.
Fungi and parasites can also cause corneal infections. These infections are more difficult to diagnose and require long treatment plans which can last several months. A usual suspect here is an organism called Acanthamoeba, which is commonly found in swimming pools, hot tubs, freshwater lakes and rivers, as well as in tap water. And this is why contact lenses should never be stored or rinsed with tap water.
Symptoms of Corneal Infection
- Eye Pain
- Light Sensitivity
- Blurred Vision
- Excessive Tearing
Treatment of a Corneal Infection
If you think that you might have a corneal infection, it’s important to see your eye doctor promptly. An untreated corneal infection may progress quickly, causing pain and even leading to vision impairment or the loss of the eye.
Treatment may begin with taking a culture to determine the type of infection. Whether it is determined to be bacterial, viral, fungal or parasitic, most corneal infections are treated with drops, ointments, or oral medications (in some cases). More severe infections may require the use of “fortified antibiotic eye drops.” These drops are formulated by a compounding pharmacy with high concentrations of antibiotics.
A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the clear front surface of the eye, the cornea. They are usually caused by a foreign object scraping this surface.
Symptoms of a Corneal Abrasion
- Foreign Body (Scratchy) Sensation
- Light Sensitivity
- Blurred Vision
Treatment for a Corneal Abrasion
Corneal abrasions are usually treated with artificial tears, antibiotic eye drops or ointment. These treatment options prevent the eye from getting infected and can also soothe any pain.
In severe cases your doctor may also recommend patching the eye, or a bandage contact lens. Fortunately, superficial corneal abrasions heal quickly after treatment – often within a matter of days – with no permanent complications. If you suspect a corneal abrasion, call your family eye doctor immediately and avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.
A pterygium is a benign growth on the surface of the eye caused by sun damage. It is a triangular-shaped, yellow-white or pinkish lesion which usually appears on the conjunctiva in the inner/nasal corner of the eye. They usually grow slowly, but can interfere with vision if it grows across the cornea.
If you spend a good deal of time in sunny, windy areas, wear protective eyewear – preferably wrap-around sunglasses with UV protection – and a wide-brim hat.
Symptoms of Pterygium
- Gritty Feeling
- Foreign Body Sensation
Treatment of Pterygium
If you have a pterygium, over-the-counter eye drops or ointments may reduce the irritation and redness. If necessary, your doctor may prescribe steroid eye drops to relieve redness, itching and swelling. If it grows to the point that it affects your vision, it can be surgically removed in an outpatient procedure.
Conjunctivitis, also called pink eye, is a common eye problem which affects both children and adults. It is an infection, but doesn’t really involve the cornea. It occurs when the conjunctiva (the clear membrane which lines your eyelid and the white of your eye) is infected or inflamed. It usually lasts from three days to three weeks, and can affect one eye or both.
Generally, pink eye is caused by a virus that often accompanies a cold or the flu. However, it can also be caused by bacteria, allergies, a foreign object or a chemical splash in the eye.
Pink eye is very contagious, so it’s important to promptly seek diagnosis and treatment. If you have any of the symptoms below, schedule an eye exam as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Pink Eye
- Crusty Discharge (especially at night)
- Eyelids Stuck Together (upon waking)
Treatments for Pink Eye
A doctor typically recommends cool compresses for viral pink eye to relieve pain, itching and dryness. If you have bacterial conjunctivitis, antibiotic ointment or eye drops are both effective remedies.
Common Questions About Corneal Treatments
Various diagnostic techniques are used to identify issues with the cornea. A slit lamp is the primary tool used to diagnose corneal disease – this involves shining a bright light into the eye. Other effective methods include keratometry, corneal pachymetry and corneal imaging (pentacam, Heidelberg OCT).
Preventing corneal conditions involves taking precautions with contact lenses, including washing your hands, keeping lenses sterile – and taking them out when you sleep. In addition, avoid rubbing your eyes when they become aggravated, and make it a practice to wear protective eyeglasses when you’re around dust and debris.
Corneal conditions are one of the leading causes of blindness and other visual impairment issues. However, a specialist can effectively treat most disorders in their early stages. Scheduling regular eye checkups is necessary to identify problems before they can deteriorate.