Corneal scars are a common source of loss, or a decrease, in vision. Scarring can result from trauma, infections, or degenerative conditions. Up until the last decade or so, there wasn’t much in the form of treatment options for traumatic or infection related scars, however, there are now options available that may restore some of the lost vision. This article will discuss the anatomy of the cornea, scarring, and treatments.
The cornea is the clear dome of the front surface of the eye. The cornea and the tear film on its surface are the first parts of the eye that focus your vision and is about as thick as a nickle. Despite what many people may believe, the eye is not soft and squishy, but nearly as hard as fingernails. The outer layer of the cornea is called the epithelium and is only several cells thick. These cells regenerate throughout your life similar to your skin cells. These cells can be scratched off the eye by an abrasion or getting something in the eye like metal, dust, or debris. These cells heal quickly with treatment by your eye doctor.
The next layer of the cornea is called the stroma. The stroma is the thickest part of the cornea and is made up of long strands that are crystal clear. The stromal cells do not regenerate, but they do heal after trauma or serious infection. During the healing process, the repairing cells lose their clarity, resulting in a scar. Also, if the stroma is damaged, the cornea may end up with distorted shape resulting in reduced vision.
The treatment options depend upon the severity of the scar. Deep scars require a different approach than superficial scars. And distorted corneas have different options as well.
- Deep scarring – for scars that are very deep the treatment options usually involves corneal transplantation surgery. There are various forms of this procedure and involves replacing the scarred cornea with clear donor cornea.
- Superficial scarring – if the scarring is not very deep, laser surgery can be used to remove the scarred tissue, or at least reduce it.
- Distorted corneas – if many cases specialty contact lenses can be used to correct the vision better than would possible with eyeglasses. In some cases, corneal transplantation is indicated.
If you have suffered corneal scarring from any source and haven’t seen your eye doctor, consider making an appointment to see if any of the new treatments available may help you recover your sight.