Illinois Eye Center

Corneal transplants: What are they and why are they needed?

corneal transplant

If you’ve been diagnosed with corneal disease or are experiencing a loss of vision, you may have heard about corneal transplants as a possible treatment option.

But what exactly is a cornea transplant? Is it safe? How does it work? Keep reading to learn more! 

What is a cornea transplant? 

A cornea transplant is a surgical procedure that uses healthy cornea tissue from a donor to replace part, or all, of your cornea. 

The cornea is a transparent tissue that covers the pupil and helps focus the light that comes into your eye.  A transplant can help improve vision, restore sight, and reduce pain caused by cornea damage, whether the damage is caused by a condition you acquire (such as an infection) or a genetic one.

Corneal transplants are increasingly common, with an estimated 47,000 performed each year. As a result, cornea transplant surgery practices have evolved rapidly, improving the success of transplants and minimizing risks and complications.

Why would someone need a cornea transplant?

There are many reasons someone may need a cornea transplant, but here are some of the most common:

  • Corrective lenses are not helping your vision.
  • You are experiencing pain, but medication isn’t helping.
  • Corneal scarring caused by infections.
  • A genetic or hereditary condition that causes your cornea to fail, such as Fuchs dystrophy.

If you’re unsure whether a cornea transplant is right for you, schedule a consultation with your doctor at Illinois Eye Center

How does a cornea transplant work? 

Though corneal transplants are surgical procedures, they are usually done in an outpatient setting. That means you do not have to stay overnight at a hospital.

The process for a corneal transplant usually starts by getting diagnosed with cornea damage or corneal disease. This process is similar to a regular eye exam. An eye care specialist will look at magnified views of your eyes to check for any corneal damage.

If you are diagnosed with a condition that warrants a transplant, the regional eye bank is contacted to receive a donor cornea for the day of surgery. The donor cornea comes from an organ donor who is recently deceased, which is why organ donation is crucial to the success and availability of corneal transplants. The eye bank will work to ensure the quality of the donor tissue, the safety of the procedure, and the timeliness of receiving corneal tissue when you need it.

The process of finding donor tissue doesn’t usually take long—unlike other types of transplants, you don’t have to wait to find a “matching” cornea like you do for a kidney or a liver. 

Once a quality donor cornea is available, you will return to your eye doctor for the procedure. You may be given medicines to help you relax. During a corneal transplant, an expert eye surgeon will remove the damaged parts of your cornea and replace them with the donor cornea. 

If you’re ready to start the corneal transplant procedure process, contact the eye care experts at Illinois Eye Center today! 

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