Photo: Getty Images
The cornea is the clear covering on the front of the eye, similar to the crystal on a watch. Light passes through the cornea to the lens and then into the eye. A clear cornea is necessary for clear vision because much of the work of focusing an image is done by the cornea before the image gets to the lens.
Why people need cornea transplants
If you wear glasses, your cornea is probably not perfectly smooth or round. Minor variations in the shape of the cornea can often be fixed by wearing glasses or contact lenses. If the cornea becomes damaged by disease or an injury, light cannot pass directly through the cornea. When the light is scattered or distorted, you may see glare or your vision may be blurred. Damage to the cornea can become so severe that glasses or contacts can no longer correct your vision. Other conditions can also cause painful swelling of the cornea. If the pain cannot be controlled using special contact lenses or medication, a cornea transplant may be the only remedy. This surgery is called keratoplasty. Some conditions that can damage the cornea and require a cornea transplant include:
• Corneal failure after cataract or other corneal surgery
• A steeply curved cornea that cannot be corrected with normal glasses or contacts
• Hereditary conditions such as Fuchs’ dystrophy
• Infections that cause scarring on the cornea such as herpes
• Rejection of a previous cornea transplant
• Injury that results in scarring
The need for cornea donations
Cornea transplants are the most common of all transplant surgeries done in the United States, and the most successful. Eye doctors perform over 40,000 cornea transplants each year Cornea transplant surgery uses healthy cornea tissue from a deceased donor to replace a damaged cornea. There is a constant need for cornea donations because the eyes do not work without a functioning cornea and there is no artificial replacement available.
Cornea donations give the gift of sight