The cornea is one of the most important parts of the human eye. It protects the eye from foreign particles and helps focus light rays onto the retina, where images are formed. Hence, any damage to the cornea can impact the clarity and quality of our vision, and a cornea transplant is often the best solution when things start to appear blurry. In this article, we will look at some important things you need to know about cornea transplants and who is an ideal candidate for this treatment.
WHAT IS A CORNEAL TRANSPLANT?
Also known as keratoplasty, a cornea transplant is a surgical operation to remove damaged or scarred cornea and replace it with donated tissue. It is usually carried out when the corneal damage is so severe that vision or other problems can be resolved with the use of contact lenses, glasses, or any medical procedure. This surgery can help improve sight, alleviate pain, and treat trauma or infection. The two most common types of cornea transplants are penetrating keratoplasty (PK) and endothelial keratoplasty (EK).
WHAT HAPPENS DURING A CORNEA TRANSPLANT SURGERY?
A corneal transplant surgery usually takes between 30 and 40 minutes to complete. You will receive an anesthetic injection to prevent pain and make the procedure more comfortable for you. The surgeon will use a lid speculum to keep the eye wide open and measure the affected corneal area to know the size of healthy donor tissue required. He or she will then remove and replace the corneal tissue based on the selected technique.
After the operation, the surgeon will apply antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection, and you will be moved to the recovering room, where you will stay until the anesthesia completely wears off.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF CORNEA TRANSPLANT SURGERY?
Corneal transplant surgery can allow the patient to see clearly for many years when done successfully. It will also reduce pain and possibly improve the appearance of a diseased cornea.
However, you need to note that it may take up to 12 months before you fully recover your eyesight after the surgery. And most times, patients are advised to start using contact lenses or glasses after the cornea transplant for better vision.
ARE THERE ANY RISKS?
Cornea transplants are carried out in many ophthalmological hospitals and have a high success rate. However, like most surgical procedures, a corneal transplant surgery comes with its own risks. Patients may experience a primary graft failure or detachment or displacement lamellar transplants.
Other risks associated with corneal transplants are:
- Corneal inflammation
- Stitch problems,
- Elevated pressure in the eyeballs (glaucoma)
Although rare, it is possible that the eye will reject the transplanted donor tissue. This may occur immediately or months (even years) after the surgery. Fortunately, cornea transplant rejection can be reversed in most cases, especially if detected early.
WHICH PATIENTS SHOULD CONSIDER A CORNEA TRANSPLANT?
Patients with the following issues may need to undergo a cornea transplant surgery:
- Vision problems due to thinning of the cornea (keratoconus)
- Scaring of the cornea due to a severe injury or infections (e.g., fungal or herpetic keratitis).
- Problems due to a previous eye operation
- Corneal ulcers or caused by an infection
- Loss of vision caused by Fuchs’ dystrophy (a genetic condition that affects the cornea, causing impaired vision and discomfort in the eye)
If you have a corneal condition that is affecting your ability to see clearly, it is best to consult your eye doctor to discuss the available treatment options for you. Your optician will know whether a corneal transplant can help improve your vision and relieve other symptoms.