The cornea is the clear, living tissue on the very front part of the eye. Occasionally, either through disease or injury, the corneal tissue is damaged to a point where a corneal transplant procedure is needed to replace the damaged cornea with clear cornea tissue from an eye bank.
A corneal transplant is an extremely delicate microsurgical procedure that has been successfully performed for over 100 years. Corneal transplants may be recommended for people who have:
- Thinning of the cornea that causes vision problems (keratoconus)
- Scarring of the cornea from severe infections or injuries
- Cloudiness of the cornea that causes vision loss (Fuchs’ dystrophy)
The most common type of corneal transplant is called penetrating keratoplasty. During this procedure, the surgeon removes a small circle-sized piece of your cornea using a cutting blade called a trephine to remove the damaged cornea. A donated cornea is stitched onto the opening in your eye. Your doctor will remove the stitches at a later date.
Treatment for Keratoconus: Corneal Cross-Linking (CXL)
When the corneal tissue becomes thin or unstable, the normal dome shape of the eye can start to bulge outward into a cone shape. This is called keratoconus and it can distort your vision – even to the point where a corneal transplant is required to restore vision. It often affects teenagers and adults in their early 20s. The good news is that the FDA has approved a treatment option to restore strength to weakened corneas: corneal collagen cross-linking (CXL). Wright Vision Center offers corneal cross-linking in Rapid City for keratoconus patients, possibly decreasing the need for corneal transplants. CXL is not a cure for keratoconus but it may help slow the progression of the disease.
CXL: Vitamin B2 + Ultraviolet Light
CXL works by increasing the number of collagen cross-links in the cornea. A vitamin B2 liquid riboflavin solution is applied to the eye followed by the application of controlled ultraviolet light. There are two methods for applying the vitamin B2 solution:
- Directly on the eye (epithelium on or transepithelial)
- Thin layer of the eye’s surface is removed (epithelium off)
The CXL process helps the collagen fibers in the cornea bond together, increasing stability of the cornea and improving vision. To learn more about corneal care in Rapid City, contact us to schedule an eye exam.