It is a cringeworthy thing to imagine: injury to the eyeball. In fact, when people see this type of special effect in a movie or on television, it prompts a visceral reaction or fear or shock. The human brain and body know that the eyes are sensitive and precious parts of the body and therefore should be treated with care. Sometimes, however, an injury occurs that cannot be prevented. Eye trauma is a difficult and dangerous thing that most people hope they never have to experience in their lifetime. It is important to know, however, that there are options for those who are victims of eye trauma, to help gain their sight and normal use of their eye back. The most common way to provide this is through cornea surgery.
Also referred to by it’s medical name, keratoplasy, cornea surgery removes damaged corneal tissue from the patient and transplants it with donor corneal tissue, usually from an eye bank. This may sound a little frightening or like it is a story out of a science fiction novel, but it is actually a fairly common and usually very successful procedure.
A cornea is the part of the eye that lets light in so that the brain can process images. If the cornea no longer lets light in, it will greatly reduce vision. In general, cornea treatment via a cornea transplant is safe and easy to heal from because of the fact that a patient does not need to be matched with a donor in order to receive a new cornea. In fact, doctors say that because the cornea is made immunologically privileged tissue, it is highly unlikely that a patient’s body will reject the transplant the way they do other body part transplants such as hearts and livers. The healing process, however, may take longer than another type of procedure like cataract surgery for example. The cornea, on average, takes more time to heal and may require the patient to wear an eye covering such as an eye patch for a while afterwards. A doctor will also likely prescribe eye drops for the patient, which will help keep the eye moist and lubricated, while also flushing it out and preventing infection, bacteria or any other complications.
Following a cornea surgery, the patient’s vision will begin to improve but they will also need to monitor it closely for any possible signs of infection, tissue rejection or loss of vision. If any of these things occur, which would likely be accompanied by discomfort or blurred vision, the patient should call their doctor immediately, who can prescribe drops that contain steroids to help correct the problem. In a very small percentage of cases, the surgery may need to be redone.
Overall, however, the success rate for this treatment is very high and many patients report no issues following surgery. In fact, many have improved vision that lasts for the rest of their life and is much better than having an injury or eye trauma that causes them to lose their sight.
Though it can seem a little off putting to think about initially, cornea surgery is a medical marvel that can provide patients with damaged corneas a new chance at vision.