Frequently Asked Questions-
What is the primary role of the cornea?
The cornea is the transparent and protective outermost layer of the eye. This dome-shaped surface shields the entire front part of the eye that includes the iris, pupil, and anterior chamber. This strong, durable and clear layer protects the eye from dust, or germs. Other parts of the eye like the eye socket, tears, eyelids, and sclera help the cornea to perform the protective task.

Also, the cornea keeps a check on the entry of light into the eye. Dr Parul Sharma says, It acts as a filter to screen out the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and protects the lens as well as the retina from the damage caused by UV radiation. More than 65% of the total focusing power of the eye is managed by the cornea.

What happens when the cornea gets injured?
It is common for the cornea to heal on its own after minor injuries or abrasions in the eye. An injury that is deep can lead to corneal scarring, pain, redness, blurred vision, light sensitivity and pain. Such symptoms can be cured with professional treatment and the healing process may take a little longer. Deeper scratches and injuries on the cornea can also impair the vision to a great extent and may demand corneal transplant.

What are the common problems that affect the cornea?
Allergy: Eye allergies are common and may lead itchiness, burning, redness, tearing, and stinging. Chances of being affected by pollen-related eye allergies are high in dry and warm. Such allergies usually do not need special medical attention and can be easily cured with the use of antihistamine decongestant eye drops.

Conjunctivitis: The condition refers to the infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is a thin, clear tissue layer lining the inner eyelid and the eyeball’s outer membrane. The most common symptoms of the disease include redness, burning, itching, pain and swelling in the eye.
Extremely contagious in nature, conjunctivitis usually occurs because of an eye allergy or a viral infection. Certain ingredients in cosmetics, environmental agents, eye drops, or contact lenses can also irritate the eye and cause conjunctivitis.

Conjunctivitis has no adverse effect on a person’s vision. However, seeking a professional’s help on time is important. If not treated on time, the inflammation may spread and cause severe corneal infection, which can also hamper the vision.

Dry eye: According to Dr. Parul Sharma of Max Hospital, this eye disorder is marked by production of fewer or less quality tears, making the eye dry and uncomfortable. The dryness often leads to a scratchy or sandy feeling in the eye. Other symptoms include burning or stinging sensation, redness, and pain. In some cases, dryness in the eye is often experienced after long episodes of excess tearing.

Keratitis:It is the painful inflammation of the cornea that is usually a result of an attack by a foreign object. An infection caused by bacteria or fungi/viruses can also cause Keratitis.
This can further lead to corneal scarring, corneal discharges, destruction of the cornea, and poor vision. A corneal transplant, thus, may be required. Contact lens wearers are most prone to such corneal infections.

Anti-bacterial eye drops can be used for treating minor corneal infections. Intensive antibiotic or anti-fungal treatment may be prescribed if the condition worsens. In such cases, inflammation can also be reduced using steroid eye drops. The patient might need to go for regular check-ups by a specialised eye care professional for a long period of time to get rid of the problem completely.

Keratoconus:It refers to the cornea’s progressive thinning. The thinning usually starts from the middle and bulges outwards. The gradual accumulation takes a round conical shape. The cornea’s abnormal curvature can lead to problems like near-sightedness, double or blurred vision, astigmatism, sensitivity to light, and sight-impairing scarring.

In most cases, both eyes are usually affected with the condition at the same time. The problems related to vision can be corrected initially with the use of glasses or soft contact lenses. A person may require specially-fitted contact lenses if astigmatism worsens and leads to severe distortion.
It may take the cornea a few years to stabilise completely. In some cases, severe corneal scarring may make it difficult for the patient totolerate a contact lens. The eye specialist, thus, may suggest a corneal transplant. A technique called collagen cross-linking may prove effective in selected keratoconus cases.

Troubled by an eye ailment? Consult Dr Parul Sharma, Head of Department at Max Hospital (Gurgaon) and Senior Eye Surgeon at Max Eye Care, Panchsheel Park/Saket (Delhi). Visit http://drparulsharma.com/index.php and book an appointment today. 

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