Patients with cornea problems can be very frustrated with available options and as a result the eye doctors at our practice provide thorough second opinion eye exams for proper diagnosis. Prior to understanding what treatment options are available it is first good to review the cornea itself.
The cornea is the clear window in the front of the eye that covers the colored iris and the round pupil. Light is focused while passing through it, allowing us to see. If it is damaged it may become swollen or scarred, distorting our vision. When vision becomes difficult or painful, disease, injury, infection, previous eye surgery or other problems can cause damage. A transplant is needed if medications or special contact lenses cannot successfully heal or relieve vision problems.
Of all the transplant surgery done today, corneal transplants are by far the most common and successful. Your transplant procedure can be done when a donor is available. Dr. Pfister is Southwestern Eye Center’s corneal specialist.
Dr. Pfister completed a two-year fellowship at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and has expertise in corneal transplantation, DSAEK (partial corneal transplants), and cataract surgery. His research has been supported by several grants, presented at national ophthalmic meetings and published in several journals.
A corneal transplant, also known as a corneal graft, or as a penetrating keratoplasty, involves the removal of the central portion (called a button) of the diseased cornea and replacing it with a matched donor button of cornea. Corneal grafts are performed on patients with damaged or scarred corneas that prevent acceptable vision. This may be due to corneal scarring from disease or trauma. A common indication for a corneal transplant is keratoconus. A cornea specialist from Southwestern Eye Center will make the determination when to suggest a corneal transplant. In many cases this is not a simple decision so careful attention to diagnosis and detail is required.
Vision will return slowly after the conventional corneal transplant surgery, with final improvements seen as far out as a year after it is performed. If there are no other conditions to complicate the recovery, the chances for greatly improved vision as compared to before the surgery are very good. Spectacles or contact lenses are usually necessary to correct astigmatism (irregular curvature) of the transplanted tissue, but these problems are minor compared to the vision issues present with the damaged cornea. Even if the surgery is successful, other existing eye conditions, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy, may limit vision after surgery. Even with such problems, a corneal transplant may still be worthwhile. A successful corneal transplant requires careful care and attention on the part of both patient and physician.