Corneal Disease

  • Medical Author:
    Patricia S. Bainter, MD

    Dr. Bainter is a board-certified ophthalmologist. She received her BA from Pomona College in Claremont, CA, and her MD from the University of Colorado in Denver, CO. She completed an internal medicine internship at St. Joseph Hospital in Denver, CO, followed by an ophthalmology residency and a cornea and external disease fellowship, both at the University of Colorado. She became board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology in 1998 and recertified in 2008. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Dr. Bainter practices general ophthalmology including cataract surgery and management of corneal and anterior segment diseases. She has volunteered in eye clinics in the Dominican Republic and Bosnia. She currently practices at One to One Eye Care in San Diego, CA.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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Corneal Disease Symptoms

Blurred Vision

Blurred vision refers to a lack of sharpness of vision resulting in the inability to see fine detail. Blurred vision may result from abnormalities present at birth such as nearsightedness or farsightedness that require corrective lenses (glasses) or it may signal the presence of eye disease.

What is the cornea?

The cornea is the clear tissue at the front and center of the eye. Its transparency permits light to pass into the eye, through the pupil, lens, and onto the retina at the back of the eye. The three major layers that compose the cornea are the outer layer or epithelial layer, the middle layer termed the stroma, and finally a single layer of cells called the endothelium.

The curvature of the cornea plays an important role in focusing (refracting or bending) light. The normal cornea is smooth, clear, and tough. It helps protect the eye from infection, dust, and other foreign material.

What are the different types of corneal disease?

There are several conditions that can affect the cornea, including the following examples:

  • Infections
    • Bacterial, fungal, or viral keratitis, as well as parasitic diseases
  • Trauma
    • Abrasions or exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Corneal dystrophies and degenerations
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Allergies
    • Vernal and atopic keratoconjunctivitis
  • Growths
    • Pterygium or benign or malignant cancerous growths on the eye's surface

The cornea can also be damaged secondarily by other eye conditions such as tear film abnormalities (dry eye), eyelid disorders, and glaucoma.

What are the signs and symptoms of corneal disease?

Signs of corneal disease can include redness around the cornea and/or cloudiness within the cornea. Symptoms include

  • blurred or cloudy vision,
  • pain,
  • tearing,
  • sensitivity to light.

Blurred vision may be the result of an irregular tear layer or epithelial layer (as seen in dry eye), scarring (following trauma or infection), deformity of the corneal curvature (as seen in keratoconus), or swelling of the cornea (as seen in Fuchs' dystrophy). Pain and light sensitivity can be quite severe, especially in conditions affecting the outermost layer (epithelium) of the cornea. Examples include traumatic abrasions, infectious ulcers, and erosions from dryness.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/20/2015
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