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Corneal Transplant: What is it and Why May You Need it?

Posted by Eye Specialists of Louisiana on Fri, Aug 15, 2014 @ 04:45 PM

corneal transplant

Imagine just what would happen to the inner workings of your watch if the face were flimsy or damaged.  You certainly wouldn’t expect it to stay in working order for a long period of time.  The same is quite true for the cornea.  This thin, protective covering of the eye works much the same as the face of your watch, protecting all of the vital inner mechanics from dirt, germs, and harmful UV rays.  However, there are times when disease or injury results in irreversible damage to this critical eye component.  In these cases, a corneal transplant may be required in order to keep the eye healthy and vision keen.

There are a variety of conditions which may ultimately affect corneal function and clarity.  Among the most common causes of corneal failure are:

  • Scarring as the result of an infection such as eye herpes

  • Eye diseases

  • Eye injury or chemical burns to the eye

  • Hereditary or genetic conditions such as Fuch’s dystrophy

  • Corneal swelling

  • Rare cataract or LASIK surgery complications

  • Thinning or irregularly shaped corneas such as those that result from Keratoconus

  • Failure of previous corneal transplant

When any of these situations occur, it is likely that you have already been under the watchful care of an ophthalmologist.  When your life quality or ability to work has become impeded by one or more of the aforementioned corneal problems, which may not be otherwise corrected, he or she may recommend a corneal transplant.  At this point, your name will placed on a waiting list with a local eye bank until a suitable, healthy replacement can be found.

Descemet’s Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK)

When and where available, DSEK is often the preferred method of corneal transplant.  This newer version of the procedure allows patients to maintain the healthy, outer portion of their own cornea, while only replacing the thin, inner layer where damage has occurred.  With less of the cornea being fully replaced and no stitches required, DSEK has been shown to offer significantly better outcomes in terms of astigmatism and other post-surgical complications.  In fact, in 2009, the American Academy of Ophthalmology endorsed it over traditional transplant surgery for its lowered risk of complication and superior overall outcomes.  At Eye Specialists of Louisiana, DSEK is the corneal transplant method of choice.

Following the procedure, patients will have a long recovery period of up to a year or more.  Patients can expect blurriness and impaired vision for the first few months as the eye adjusts to the new corneal graft.  Prescribed steroid drops will aid in this process.  While vision and activity may be limited for quite some time following the surgery, and protective measures such as special eyewear may be required, the end result is often relief from long-standing corneal problems.  In the meantime, it is important that patients be aware of any complications that could impede the healing process.  Remember these with the acronym, RSVP:

  • Redness

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Vision reduction

  • Pain

If you notice any of these symptoms following your procedure, contact your ophthalmologist immediately, as they could indicate a rejection of your corneal graft.

The job of the cornea cannot be overstated.  It is responsible for protecting our very delicate eyes from injury and disease.  However, there are times when this critical component itself becomes irreversibly damaged.  In these cases, replacement with a corneal graft is often the only option to restore proper sight.  For patients who have reached this point in their eyesight, a qualified ophthalmologist will prove to be your most valuable resource. 

If you are located in the Baton Rouge area, contact Eye Specialists of LouisianaOur doctors are skilled in diagnosing and treating a host of eye conditions, including those that impact the health of the cornea.  Additionally, they have performed countless, successful corneal transplants and can help guide you along the process.  To schedule your appointment, simply click here, or call us directly at (225) 768-7777.

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