The eye is composed of many parts, each serving an important role in its health and function. The iris controls the pupil, making it smaller or larger, depending on the amount of light needed. The retina interprets the images we see and sends them to the brain via the optic nerve. And, the cornea sits at the front of it all, a clear, dome-shaped covering that focuses light into the eye and helps protect it from outside elements.
Injury or disease can negatively impact any part of the eye, but its forward placement makes the cornea uniquely susceptible. Here, we will review four common causes of damage or irritation to the cornea, as well as how they may be treated.
Keratitis and Corneal Inflammation
Keratitis is a condition in which the cornea becomes inflamed. This may be the result of an injury or of irritation from causes such as wearing contact lenses for too long. It may also occur as the result of an infection from bacteria, a virus, or parasites. When keratitis occurs, the eyes may become red and painful. You may experience excess tearing, discharge, or have difficulty opening your eyes. If any of these symptoms occur, contact your ophthalmologist to determine the nature of your keratitis and have it treated appropriately.
Injury from Corneal Abrasion
Abrasions to the cornea can occur easily when a foreign object, no matter how small, makes contact. In most cases, these scratches are minor and generally heal quickly and without aid. However, deeper eye injuries can result in a number of painful symptoms and can impede vision as well. Similar to Keratitis, a more severe corneal abrasion can cause pain, sensitivity to light, blurry vision, and redness. Again, any of these symptoms indicate a need to see your eye doctor at the earliest possibility.
Allergies and the Cornea
There are many types of allergies that we can encounter from food to environmental. However, the one that is most commonly noted for its ability to produce red, itchy, watery eyes is pollen. Most bothersome when the weather takes a warmer turn, pollen can lead to lots of sniffling and eye tearing. Fortunately, it is rarely bothersome enough to seek medical attention, and antihistamines and time are generally enough to do the trick.
Types of Corneal Dystrophy
In some cases, an individual develops clouding of the cornea due to a condition that is typically hereditary. These conditions range in severity from barely noticeable to severe visual impairment. Which disease is present will not only determine the patient’s outlook, but it will also dictate optimal treatment. Among these conditions are:
- Fuchs’ Dystrophy
- Lattice Dystrophy
- Map-Dot-Fingerprint Dystrophy
Aside from those listed above, there are other health conditions such as shingles that may impact the eye as well. The bottom line is that any changes in your eye such as irritation or visual disturbances warrants an exam with your ophthalmologist. While your condition is hopefully mild and passing, it’s important not to overlook a more serious condition that requires treatment in order to protect vision and eye health.