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What is the cornea and why is it important?

People of all ages can be affected by cornea issues – and because the cornea plays such a crucial role in your eye health, it’s important to treat issues as soon as they arise.

The cornea – a clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye – is the eye’s outermost layer. It serves two main functions: protection and vision. The cornea helps to protect the rest of the eye from germs, dust, and harmful objects, and serves as a filter for harmful UV rays. It also acts as a refractive surface by controlling and focusing light as it enters the eye, allowing you to see.

Cornea issues can impair vision and leave the eye vulnerable – read on to explore how Oregon Eye Specialists can help you to treat any problems that may arise.


Common corneal conditions

If you have been diagnosed with one of the following conditions – or if you suspect you’re suffering from one or more of these issues – you should consider seeking professional medical treatment. Fortunately, our physicians at Oregon Eye Specialists are well-equipped to treat a wide span of corneal issues, including the following:


Acute and chronic conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis (or commonly known as “pink eye”) is inflammation of the conjunctiva – or the thin, transparent tissue that lines inner eyelids and outer surface of the eye. Acute conjunctivitis typically subsides after a few days, while chronic conjunctivitis can last for longer periods of time.

Corneal dystrophies

Corneal dystrophy occurs when one or more parts of the cornea lose their normal clarity due to a buildup of cloudy material. While some corneal dystrophies cause severe vision problems, others are barely noticeable and only get diagnosed in a routine eye exam.

Fuchs’ endothelial dystrophy

One of the more common dystrophies, this condition is a slowly progressive deterioration of cells in the endothelium that distorts vision. It typically affects people in their 50s and 60s.


This issue occurs as the middle of the cornea thins and gradually bulges outward, which can cause astigmatism and nearsightedness. Keratoconus is the most common corneal ectasia in the U.S., and is most prevalent in teenagers and adults in their 20s.

Corneal infections

When bacteria or injury damage the cornea, it can result in painful inflammation and a corneal infection called keratitis. These infections can impair vision clarity by damaging the integrity of the cornea and may result in corneal scarring.

Dry eye

For those with dry eye, the eye is unable to keep itself moist and comfortable due to an inadequate production of tears. This results in a scratchy or sandy feeling in the eye, and occasionally, vision problems.


A pterygium is a triangular-shaped, pinkish growth on the cornea’s tissue that can become swollen from dust or air pollutants. Some pterygium stop growing at a certain point, while others will slowly continue to grow unless removed surgically.

Refractive errors

Refractive errors (Nearsightedness, Farsightedness, and Astigmatism)are very common. Typically during the refraction process, the cornea and lens bend light to focus it on the retina. But for people with refractive errors, the light bends incorrectly and results in imperfect vision.

Scarring of the cornea

Although the cornea can typically recover from minor injuries, deep scratches can cause pain, blurred vision, tearing, redness, recurrent erosions, infections, and extreme light sensitivity.


Corneal treatments at Oregon Eye Specialists

If your doctor has diagnosed you with one of the aforementioned corneal conditions, it is recommended that you seek treatment. Our staff physicians at Oregon Eye Specialists are specially trained to treat corneal issues through the following procedures:

  • Corneal transplant surgery
  • Pterygium excision
  • LASIK surgery
  • Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK)

Delaying care can cause issues to worsen, so it’s important to talk with your doctor to determine which treatments are most appropriate for your needs – our physicians at Oregon Eye Specialists can help you to understand the cause of your corneal issue and discuss the right care options.


Learn more about your options for corneal care

Call Oregon Eye Specialists today or request an appointment online.


Cornea Care

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