Who Needs a Corneal Transplant?

Posted by: Missouri Eye Institute in Blog on May 2, 2023

The cornea, the clear, dome-like tissue covering the very front of your eye, is a vital part of your vision. While it may seem like its only purpose is to prevent anything from getting into your eye, it actually performs many more essential functions.

The cornea is curved, which causes light to come into focus inside the eye. There is also a lens inside the eye, which can adjust the focus of the light, but the cornea does most of the heavy lifting. 

Without a healthy cornea, clear vision is unlikely. Unfortunately, like other important parts of the body, the cornea can be prone to problems. 

While eye doctors typically try other methods first, sometimes a corneal transplant is needed to save vision. Keep reading to learn who needs a corneal transplant!

What is a Corneal Transplant?

A corneal transplant is a procedure that grafts donor corneal tissue onto a patient who needs a new cornea altogether. A cornea that is damaged or diseased may be beyond repair, and the patient might require a new, healthy cornea for a fresh start. 

Corneas don’t necessarily need to be entirely replaced, though. It is possible to replace the damaged part of a cornea while keeping the healthy parts of the original tissue. 

This is possible because corneas are divided into distinct layers. The deep layers inside of a cornea can be replaced with endothelial keratoplasty. 

A corneal transplant replacing the outer and middle layers of a cornea is called a deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty. A transplant replacing all layers of the cornea is called a penetrating keratoplasty. 

Most corneal transplants take less than an hour to complete and are typically done on an outpatient basis, so you get to go home on the same day. An endothelial keratoplasty does not require stitches since it is inside the eye. 

It is held in place with a temporary air bubble. If the outside of your cornea is removed, you will need stitches, however. 

They are usually left in for quite some as your cornea recovers. Although your eye doctor may choose to remove a few occasionally, depending on your healing.

Since a corneal transplant relies on donor tissue, there is a chance your body could reject it. However, most corneal transplants are successful.

You will need to visit your eye doctor routinely after this procedure so they are able to keep track of your healing and make sure your vision improves.

What Can Make Me Need A Corneal Transplant?  

The cornea is the root location of many eye conditions. These problems can usually be sorted out through other means besides a corneal transplant, but sometimes a transplant is the only option left. 

Keratoconus, for example, is an eye condition that causes the cornea to bulge outwards and becomes cone shaped. This is because the corneal structure is weakened. 

Fuchs’ Dystrophy is another corneal condition in which the innermost layer of corneal tissue becomes damaged. You can also develop corneal injuries from physical trauma and corneal ulcers.

Are you experiencing changes in your vision, or are you concerned you may have a corneal condition? Schedule an appointment at Missouri Eye Institute in Joplin, MO, today!


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