What is a Corneal Transplant?

Posted by: Missouri Eye Institute in Blog on October 8, 2020

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A corneal transplant is a procedure that replaces corneal tissue with tissue from a donor. This restores vision, treats eye pain, and improves a damaged or diseased cornea.

Most cornea transplants are successful. But there is a small risk that your body will reject the transplanted tissue. Keep reading to learn more about corneal transplants!

What is the Cornea?

Your cornea is the transparent, dome-shaped surface of your eye. This is what is responsible for your eye color. It also handles most of the eye’s focusing power.

Reasons for a Corneal Transplant

The most common reasons for a corneal transplant is to restore vision. Vision loss is typical in patients who have a damaged or diseased cornea.

Diseased and damaged corneas can cause pain or damage to other parts of the eye. A transplant can help treat this pain. It can also stop the spreading of disease.

Other common conditions treated by a corneal transplant include:

Signs of a Rejected Transplant

Transplant rejection occurs when your body’s immune system attacks a transplanted organ or tissue. Your immune system identifies it as foreign.

Because it’s foreign, it’s seen as harmful to the body. When this happens, the antibodies go to work, fighting what they believe is an infection.

If your body rejects the donor cornea, you will likely need further medical treatment. In some instances, your doctor may recommend removing the transplanted cornea and trying a new transplant.

Common signs of a rejected transplant include loss of vision, pain, and light sensitivity. About one in ten transplants gets rejected.

Transplant Preparation

There is a thorough preparation process before you have a corneal transplant. Here are the main four steps.

Thorough eye exam

Your eye doctor will conduct a thorough eye exam to assess the health of your eyes. During this process, they will identify any conditions that may lead to complications during your recovery.

Eye measurements

Your eye doctor will take measurements of your eye. This will help determine the size of the cornea you will need for your transplant.

After knowing this information, the search for a donor will begin.

Review of all current medications and supplements

Your eye doctor will ask you about all medications and supplements you currently take. Your doctor will let you know if you need to stop taking any of these before your transplant.

Treat any other existing eye conditions

Eye conditions unrelated to your cornea can lead to infections and inflammation during your recovery. These conditions can hinder your chances of having a successful corneal transplant.

These eye conditions must be treated before your transplant.

After being cleared and you’ve found a donor, your doctor will discuss what to expect during surgery. You’ll also go over what the recovery process is like.

Concerned that you or a loved one may need a corneal transplant? Request an appointment at Missouri Eye Institute in Springfield, MO!


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