Anytime the clear, transparent cornea is damaged and looses its clarity or regular contour, vision can be dramatically reduced. Corneal damage can occur from infections (bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic), diseases (Fuchs dystrophy), degenerations (keratoconus), and trauma.
When these problems occur and result in permanent corneal damage, a full thickness corneal transplant may be necessary to restore vision. Modern surgical techniques make corneal transplantation highly successful with a very low graft rejection rate. The surgery is typically performed as an out-patient procedure at an ambulatory surgery center with rapid recovery and a return to normal activity in several days. Vision recovery occurs over several months.
A newer transplant technique called DSAEK (Descemet’s Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty) involves a small incision removal of the back membrane (Descemet’s membrane) and endothelial cells of the patient’s cornea. A thin layer of donor corneal tissue containing healthy endothelial cells is then inserted into the eye and adheres to the posterior cornea of the patient. This newer form of corneal transplantation offers some significant advantage over full thickness cornea transplants. Quicker visual recovery and the ability to get good postoperative vision with conventional glasses are benefits. It is the procedure of choice in patients with endothelial disease such as Fuchs corneal dystrophy.
If you have been diagnosed with a vision altering corneal problem, consultation with a corneal specialist will help you understand what medical or surgical treatment may help improve your vision.