Corneal eye problems
The cornea is the clear layer on the front of the eye. Damage to the cornea or conditions affecting it can affect vision, make you sensitive to bright light, make the eye look red, and can be painful.
There are three main layers of the cornea:
- Epithelium. The outer layer that helps stop outside matter from getting in the eye. It also absorbs oxygen and nutrients from tears.
- Stroma. The middle layer, and the thickest layer, made up mostly of water and proteins.
- Endothelium. The final and thick layer between the cornea and the clear fluid in the eye.
Corneal diseases are conditions that affect mainly the cornea. These include infections, degeneration of the cornea and inherited conditions.
What are symptoms of corneal problems?
Damage to the cornea is usually repaired naturally relatively quickly. However, during this time symptoms may be experienced, including:
Seek medical advice for these symptoms. An eye expert will need to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms before diagnosing corneal problems.
What conditions can damage the cornea?
Inflammation of the cornea after infection with viruses, bacteria or fungi. This can affect people who use contact lenses.
Symptoms of keratitis include severe pain, blurred vision, tears, light sensitivity, red eyes and eye discharge.
Treatment usually includes antibiotic or antifungal eye drops. Sometimes, antiviral medications and steroid eye drops are necessary.
Ocular herpes or herpes of the eye
This is caused by a viral infection and can keep coming back. Symptoms include sores on the surface of the cornea and inflammation of the eye. These cannot be cured but antiviral medications may be recommended to manage it.
As well as causing skin rashes and blisters, usually in older people, shingles can affect nerves in the eye, and can also cause painful blisters or lesions on the cornea. These will eventually heal on their own, but antiviral treatment or steroid eye drops may be recommended for inflammation.
Cornea conditions from injuries include corneal abrasion, corneal ulcer and corneal flash burns.
Keratoconus is a progressive condition causing thinning of a cornea and a change in its shape.
This can cause astigmatism and short-sightedness. Keratoconus may also result in swelling and scarring of the cornea and vision loss.
Keratoconus causes may include:
Other health conditions.
Treatment may be with corrective lenses at first but may require a corneal transplant.
Map-dot-fingerprint dystrophy is one of several dystrophies that can affect the eyes. This condition affects the membrane between the epithelium and stroma. Irregularities form making it thicker in some places and thinner in others. It gets its name from the irregularities looking like maps, dots and fingerprints.
This is an inherited condition which is usually painless and does not cause vision loss. However, if epithelial erosion occurs there can be severe pain, especially first thing in the morning. There can also be astigmatism from the shape of the eye changing.