The 6 Most Common Corneal Diseases and How to Treat Them

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At Alabama Vision Center, we see and treat a lot of eye injuries and diseases. With state-of-the-art equipment and a team of experienced eye doctors, we can diagnose even the most obscure vision. 

Knowledge is half the battle, which is why Alabama Vision Center has created a nifty guide to help our patients understand some of the most common issues that affect the cornea. Find out more about what you can do to protect your cornea and what kind of treatment options to expect if you’re already experiencing symptoms.

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1. Corneal Scratches and Abrasions

What Are They?

  • A corneal scratch or abrasion is a small scrape on the outermost layer of the eye. These are usually the result of an eye injury of some sort.  They can range from minor to serious depending on how deep the scratch is and where it’s located. Corneal abrasions can give a persistent uncomfortable feeling like you’ve got something stuck in your eye and can cause your eyes to become itchy, red, and sore. It’s always a good idea to have your eye doctor check out a corneal scratch.

  • Sometimes corneal scratches may heal on their own, but it’s possible that if left untreated, they may become infected.  Depending on the severity of your corneal scratch or abrasion, you may need to seek help for an ocular emergency.

How to Prevent Them

  • Corneal scratches are often the result of eye injuries. Make sure to always use face shields or face guards when playing sports like hockey or baseball. Use goggles or other eye protection when working with tools.

2. Corneal Infections

What Are They?

  • Bacterial, fungal, parasitic, and viral infections that enter the outer layer of the eye are referred to as corneal infections. This usually happens after a corneal scrape or abrasion. Corneal infections can impair your vision or otherwise reduce your quality of life. If left untreated, corneal infections can become serious, sight-threatening conditions. One type of corneal infection called keratitis impacts those who wear contact lenses who do not follow best practices for contact lens care.

  • Most corneal infections can be treated with anti-bacterial or anti-fungal eye drops. If infections become serious, surgery or corneal transplants may be necessary to restore vision.

How to Prevent Them

  • If you experience a sudden decrease in vision, sudden eye pain, an increase in flashes and floaters, or a swelling of the cornea, contact your nearest Alabama Vision Center immediately. Catching infections early provides more treatment options. If you wear contact lenses, never sleep in them, rinse them with tap water, or continue wearing them past their recommended timeframe for the specific lens. Always follow best practices for contact lens cleaning and care.

3. Pterygium

What is It?

  • A pterygium is a growth of the white part of the eye, called the conjunctiva. They usually start out small but can cause vision impairment if left untreated.

  • Most symptoms of pterygiums can be treated with over the counter or prescription eye drops. If the pterygium has grown large enough to cover the iris, corneal surgery may be required to restore vision.

How to Prevent It

  • The most common cause of pterygiums is frequent exposure to UV rays. This is why the condition is often referred to as “Surfer’s Eye.” Wearing a pair of sunglasses is the best way to prevent your eyes from developing a pterygium. Alabama Vision Center offers both sun lenses for eyeglasses and prescription sunglasses. Browse our optical shop’s selection.

4. Corneal Ulcer

What is It?

  • Corneal ulcers are open wounds in the cornea. They usually result from untreated corneal infections. Common symptoms of corneal ulcers include pain, swelling, excessive tearing, feeling like something is stuck in your eye, redness, and blurry vision. If you believe you have a corneal ulcer, seek help from your eye doctor immediately.

How to Prevent It

  • Because corneal ulcers are usually the result of untreated corneal infections, seeking treatment immediately after a corneal injury is the best way to prevent them. Contact lens wearers are especially at risk of developing corneal ulcers. Practicing good contact lens care, never sleeping in contacts, and never continuing to wear contacts past their recommended usage timeframe are the best way to prevent corneal ulcers from contact lens usage.

5. Keratoconus

What is It?

  • Keratoconus is a condition where the cornea itself begins changing to become more cone shaped. Normal corneas are dome-shaped, and this is important to the way our eyes focus light. Symptoms of keratoconus may have a slow onset, but typically include ghost images, halos around lights, sensitivity to bright lights, and blurry vision.

  • If the condition is caught early enough, it can be treated with specialty contact lenses such as scleral lenses. A procedure called corneal collagen cross-linking may also be successful in slowing or halting keratoconus. In later stages of the condition, corneal surgery may be required to restore normal vision.

How to Prevent It

  • It is still unclear exactly what causes keratoconus. In most cases, genetic conditions are thought to be a risk factor. If you start experiencing any of the symptoms of keratoconus, see your nearest Alabama Vision Center eye doctor. We can help you manage your condition and provide options to restore your vision.

6. Fuchs’ Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy

What is It?

  • Fuchs’ Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy, also known simply as Fuchs’ or Fuchs’ Dystrophy is a genetic disorder impacting the cornea. The cornea contains endothelial cells that normally ensure fluid doesn’t build up in the outer layer of the eye.

  • With Fuchs’, an individual’s cornea either loses these endothelial cells, or they stop working over time. Fluid builds up in the cornea, causing it to swell. Symptoms include blurry vision, glare, difficulty with nighttime driving, and eye pain. In severe cases where Fuchs’ Dystrophy progresses to the point where it impairs vision, surgery may become necessary to relieve symptoms. Corneal transplants will restore long-term vision in most cases.

How to Prevent It

  • Unlike many other items on this list, Fuchs’ Dystrophy is a mostly hereditary condition. If there’s a history of it in your family, there’s a higher likelihood you have the condition too. Early detection is important to providing the best course of treatment to manage the disease. Make sure you always get an annual eye exam.

  • The doctors at Alabama Vision Center are trained to detect unique corneal diseases like Fuchs’ Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy and come up with a treatment plan with the best chances of restoring your vision.

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The best protection against many of these corneal diseases is early detection by an eye doctor. The Birmingham corneal specialists at Alabama Vision Center are here to help you achieve your best vision. 

Schedule an appointment at your nearest Alabama Vision Center and lets keep your eyes happy and healthy together!