The cornea is the clear surface of the eye. Since it is the first surface through which the light passes, a healthy cornea is essential for good vision. North Cascade Eye Associates offers effective options for treatment of corneal disease, injury, and other conditions affecting the cornea. Our corneal specialist, Dr. Carlindo Pereira, works with you to establish which procedure is best for your unique case. Corneal conditions can lead to visual deterioration and even complete vision loss, so it is necessary to have your eyes evaluated on a regular basis and seek treatment at the first signs of vision problems. With procedures such as corneal transplantation, pterygium surgery, and other options, we can reduce the symptoms and risks to your vision caused by corneal disease or trauma.
Causes of Corneal Disease
Corneal disease can result from a variety of factors, including:
- Infection from wearing contact lenses
- Trauma or injury
- Swelling or distortion of the cornea from eye diseases such as keratoconus, Fuchs’ dystrophy, or many others
- Corneal swelling after an eye surgery procedure
- Corneal scarring
- Corneal Transplant Procedures
- Penetrating Keratoplasty (PK)
Corneal Transplant Procedures
Penetrating Keratoplasty (PK)
If other, less invasive treatment options do not work, Penetrating Keratoplasty (PK), also known as Full Thickness Cornea Transplant, may be performed as a last resort. Our fellowship-trained cornea specialist Dr. Pereira performs the surgery, which replaces the center of your natural, damaged cornea with a healthy tissue graft from a human donor. The procedure is designed to restore vision loss you had experienced as a result of disease or injury.
Descemet’s Striping Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK)
Less invasive than PK, and often with a shorter recovery time, is a procedure known as DSEK or DMEK. In the procedure, our eye surgeon will replace only the thin endothelial layer of the cornea with an organ donor’s cornea. There is less chance of tissue rejection with these procedures because most of the natural cornea is left intact. Plus, when compared with a full thickness corneal transplant procedure, DSEK and DMEK treatments often lead to quicker recovery time and a faster return of vision.
Other Corneal Surgeries
Pterygium is a thickening of the outer eye tissue (conjunctiva) that gradually grows over the cornea, obstructing your vision. The cause is believed to be from the sun’s ultraviolet rays or exposure to a dry and dusty environment. People in tropical climates and those who are exposed to the sun for extended periods may be at higher risk for developing pterygium. Symptoms of this abnormal growth of tissue include excessive tearing, eye discoloration, redness, irritation, increased astigmatism, reduced vision, and distorted vision. It may also cause scarring of the eye.
Symptoms caused by small pterygia can often be relieved with drops. This form of the condition usually only causes minor eye irritation. However, larger pterygia can impair vision and/or cause debilitating eye irritation, and may require surgery for removal. In addition to being a common problem, pterygium can also recur, even after being treated or removed. To reduce your risk of developing pterygium, you should take precautions to shield your eyes from the sun and environments prone to dust and wind.
INTACS® are thin, crescent shaped plastic segments that are surgically placed within the cornea. Dr. Pereira, our corneal surgeon at NCEA, may consider INTACS® as an option for improving uncorrected vision in patients with mild to moderate keratoconus. INTACS® are placed within the mid-layer of the cornea (stroma) with the goal of flattening and reshaping the corneal surface, thus reducing the overall irregularity of the cornea. Depending on the severity of corneal irregularity, INTACS® may not be able to reshape all of the irregularity, but they can aid in increasing overall vision with glasses or soft contact lens correction, or they can ease the fitting process of a rigid contact lens. Mild keratoconus patients who are not dependent on rigid contact lenses typically see about one to two lines of improvement in visual acuity after INTACS® placement. Moderate keratoconus patients who are more dependent on rigid contact lenses may also benefit from INTACS® by enjoying an improved rigid contact lens fit after INTACS® placement, and thus, typically note an overall enhancement in their function of vision and comfort of rigid lenses as they will likely be a long-term rigid contact lens wearer.
SK (Superficial Keratectomy)
SK is a procedure that is used to treat superficial ocular surface conditions, such as recurrent corneal erosions and anterior basement membrane dystrophy (ABMD). Many ocular surface conditions that cause damage to the most superficial layer of the cornea can be painful, and unfortunately, are often recurrent. The SK procedure is aimed at removing the area of damaged superficial tissue cells, which allows the cornea to regenerate its own healthier tissue cells. These cells take an average of one to two weeks to regenerate, and up to eight weeks to bond completely to the cells beneath it. SK is an outpatient procedure, and patients will leave the office with a bandage soft contact lens in place for comfort. Often, a regimen of topical antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops will be used during the weeks following the procedure. Many patients with ocular surface conditions appreciate this procedure because it makes them less prone to recurrences of corneal damage, or reduces the number of recurrences in the future.
Contact North Cascade Eye Associates
To learn more about corneal treatment, options for pterygium conditions, and other effective eye procedures, contact North Cascade Eye Associates today.