What Is Corneal Transplantation?

corneal transplantation

Have you heard of cornea transplantation but unsure exactly how the process works? The cornea is the dome-shaped surface of the eye that helps the eye to focus. A keratoplasty, or corneal transplant, is a surgical procedure that involves replacing part of the cornea with donor corneal tissue. This operation can reduce pain, improve the appearance of a diseased or otherwise damaged cornea, and restore vision.


How successful is a cornea transplant?


Almost all corneal transplants are successful. However, as with any surgical procedure, there are certain risks. These include eye infections, glaucoma, complications with the stitches that attach the donor cornea, swelling of the cornea, and rejection of the donor cornea.


Be sure to see your doctor if you have had a transplant and you experience signs of complications such as pain, redness, light sensitivity, or loss of vision.


How long does it take to recover from a corneal transplant?


After a corneal transplant, you will need to spend most of your time lying face-up looking toward the ceiling except when eating or going to the bathroom. You can typically resume some of your normal activities after the first 48 hours. You will need to wear an eye shield at night and special glasses during the day to protect your eyes until they have fully healed.


You may notice that your eyes feel scratchy or irritated for the first few days following your procedure. It’s important to avoid rubbing your eyes, which could damage them. You may also experience blurry vision for a period after surgery. You will receive eye drops to help your eyes recover and prevent rejection of the donor cornea.


Most patients can return to work within a week or two. Avoid heavy lifting for at least four weeks or until your eye doctor gives you the go-ahead. It may take as long as 12 weeks for your vision to become clear and for you to realize the full benefits of the surgery.


Do corneal transplants last forever?


How successful your cornea transplant will be over the long term depends on several factors, including the type of surgery, the underlying reason for the corneal damage prior to the transplantation, the surgeon’s experience level, and your immune system’s ability to accept the donor cornea. Because success rates vary, you should discuss your situation with your doctor to gain an understanding of what to expect.


Why would someone need a cornea transplant?


There are many reasons why someone might need a cornea transplant. For example:


  • Inflammation and infections of the eye. Infection and inflammation can cause the cornea to scar, making it difficult to see properly. People might develop eye infections due to a compromised immune system, improper contact lens care, or excessive eye rubbing.
  • Corneal thinning. A person may develop a chronic condition that causes thinner-than-normal corneas. The cornea may also bulge out of shape.
  • Fuch’s dystrophy. Fuch’s dystrophy is a medical condition in which the layer of the cornea responsible for producing fluid to keep the vision clear dies off, leading to cloudy or hazy vision. A replacement cornea will be intact and healthy, so these problems should disappear after surgery.


Your vision after a corneal transplantation


After your procedure, you can expect your eyesight to improve gradually for several weeks, keeping in mind that it may take several months for your vision to stabilize. However, the curve of your donor cornea will not match the curve of your natural cornea, which means that you will most likely be left with some degree of nearsightedness and astigmatism. It’s difficult to predict post-surgery refraction. While mild refractive errors can generally be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses are required in cases where vision problems are more severe.


Corneal transplant patients can benefit from using rigid gas permeable lenses or hybrid lenses, which are usually the best options because of the irregularities of the cornea after surgery. However, many patients will be able to use soft contact lenses, as well.

Related Post: The Difference Between Hybrid Lenses vs. GP Lenses vs. Disposable Soft Lenses


If astigmatism is pronounced, scleral lenses are the best way to correct it. After a corneal transplant, the lens should not actually make contact with the cornea. Scleral lenses are the best option because they can be measured precisely to ensure that they form a vault over the cornea. Using scleral lenses or other types of specialty lenses, most patients can achieve 20/20 vision even after a corneal transplant.

Related Post: Treating Patients with Scleral Lenses


If you have had a corneal transplant and are still experiencing vision problems, we can help. Contact us to schedule an eye exam and take the next step toward crystal-clear, comfortable vision.

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