What is a cornea transplant?

Cornea transplant is a procedure that replaces your cornea, the clear front layer of your eye. During this procedure, your surgeon removes damaged or diseased corneal tissue. Healthy corneal tissue from the eye of a deceased human donor replaces the damaged cornea. For many people, cornea transplant surgery restores clear vision and improves their quality of life.

What does the cornea do?

The clear, dome-shaped cornea protects the eyes against dirt, germs, other particles, and damaging UV light. The cornea, working together with the lens of the eye, focus light that enters the eye so that vision can be clear.

The cornea is made up of three main layers of tissue, with two thinner layers of membrane between them.

What symptoms may indicate I need a cornea transplant?

If you have a damaged cornea, you may experience symptoms including:

  • Eye pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Cloudy vision

Your ophthalmologist will determine the cause and other possible treatments that may resolve these symptoms. If your cornea cannot be repaired using other methods, your surgeon may recommend a cornea transplant.

How often are cornea transplants performed?

Currently, ophthalmologists perform more than 47,000 corneal transplants in the U.S. every year. This is expected to increase as the population ages.

What types of diagnoses indicate I could need a cornea transplant?

Conditions that damage your corneas and impair your ability to see clearly may require a corneal transplant. These conditions include:

  • Fuchs’ dystrophy, a condition in which the inner layer (endothelial) cells of the cornea die, causing the cornea to swell and thicken and vision to become blurred
  • Keratoconus, a condition that causes the cornea to be cone-shaped instead of dome-shaped
  • Infections, which cause permanent damage to the cornea
  • Traumatic injuries that penetrate or scar the cornea
  • Previous eye surgeries that damaged the cornea
  • Bullous keratopathy, a blister-like swelling of the cornea that causes eye discomfort, pain, and blurred vision
  • Keratitis, an inflammation of the cornea caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites

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