A normal cornea has a rounded spherical surface. Keratoconus is a common disease that causes the cornea to be shaped like a cone. While a mild case of keratoconus can be corrected with contact lenses or glasses, more severe cases can only be cured with a corneal transplant. This operation restores the spherical shape to the cornea.
The cornea needs to be thin and relatively water-free in order to transmit light correctly. Cells on the back surface of the cornea are responsible for pumping water out of the cornea in order to keep it thin. If these cells become diseased or damaged, the cornea retains water, becomes thick, and scatters light. A patient has symptoms of glare, decreased vision, and pain. This condition can be inherited, result from eye trauma or surgery, or be part of the natural aging process. A corneal transplant removes the diseased cells and replaces them with functioning cells, thus returning the natural thickness of the cornea.
Any corneal scar from trauma or infection can decrease vision. Also, inherited diseases that cloud the cornea can impair vision. A corneal transplant eliminates the scarred tissue and restores vision with a fresh cornea. Eye Care Associates of New Jersey has joined the revolution in curing corneal disease. Dr. Friend is now performing Descemet's Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSAEK), a partial thickness corneal transplant that reduces healing time from one year to only several weeks while also being much safer. In patients who suffer from diseases that affect only the back of the cornea, Dr. Friend can remove the diseased area and leave behind the healthy cornea. He then removes the posterior part of a healthy donor cornea and inserts it into the eye through a small incision. This reduces the risk of sutures rupturing from eye trauma and greatly lessens any astigmatism that can occur from corneal sutures.
Patients who have corneal disease in the front or throughout the whole cornea are candidates for a traditional corneal transplant, otherwise known as penetrating keratoplasty. To perform a cornea transplant, a round central portion of the cornea is removed and a similarly-sized cornea from a human donor is sewn in its place with very thin stitches. All donor corneas are carefully screened for any signs of imperfection as well as for any communicable diseases.
Like all surgeries, corneal transplantation does carry with it some risks. They include graft rejection or failure, glaucoma, cataract, and rarely bleeding, infection, or retinal detachment. Many of these complications can be treated with medications or surgery.
Corneal transplantation is an extremely delicate procedure. While vision will start returning several weeks after surgery, months of healing are required before full vision is restored. Glasses, contact lenses, or LASIK may be needed to sharpen vision. Long-term use of eye drops as well as regular office visits are required in order for your transplant to be successful. Depending on your underlying medical condition, a corneal transplant succeeds about 90% of the time.
We perform corneal transplant surgery at the Bergen-Passaic Cataract Surgery & Laser Center in Fair Lawn and at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood.