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Corneal Transplantation

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The cornea is a translucent outer layer of the eye which acts as both protection for the rest of the eye and a filter for light. A corneal transplant may be necessary in order to restore vision if the cornea becomes significantly damaged.

Damage to the cornea typically occurs as a result of physical trauma, infection, or certain diseases (keratitis, ocular herpes, shingles, and keratoconus being the most common). People suffering from corneal damage usually experience blurred vision, redness in the eyes, significant sensitivity to light, and pain in and around the eye area.

Once a doctor has diagnosed a patient with corneal damage, the option of surgery may be suggested, though corneal transplant procedures require a complete pre-operative exam in order to ensure that visual improvement is likely. Because of these notable risks, a doctor will typically make an attempt to pursue other treatment options (like using specialized contact lenses). If the patient sees well enough to move through their day-to-day activities with relative ease, surgery is typically avoided. However, if their condition disallows them from working or significantly hampers their ability to live their life as they see fit, then corneal transplant surgery may be the best, and sometimes only option.

Prior to surgery, local or general anesthesia is administered and the donor prepares the donor cornea. The center portion of the damaged cornea is then removed and is then replaced by the transplant tissue. Once fitted properly, the transplant tissue is gently stitched into place (these stitches begin to be removed a few months following the surgery). Steroids are then used over the course of the coming weeks and/or months to expedite the healing process.

Corneal transplantation patients can expect a generally lengthy recovery time, from six months to over one year. Localized steroid treatments for many months. Apart from that, vision-threatening complications can arise following surgery, and over 10% of corneal transplant surgeries result in the body rejecting the new tissue altogether.

Though it is a very serious surgery to consider, corneal transplant surgery may be completely necessary in some cases, and can bring about excellent results when no complications arise.

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