When you think of medical transplants, you probably think of major organ transplants. However, there’s one kind of transplant that involves an extremely small amount of tissue: a cornea transplant. 

While a cornea transplant isn’t a major organ transplant, it may be medically necessary in order to restore your vision. There are a few situations that require a cornea transplant, and in these situations, a transplant is considered the only way to reverse or prevent vision loss.

Keep reading to learn more about why you would need a cornea transplant, the different types of corneal transplants, and how a cornea transplant works!

Reasons to Have a Corneal Transplant

Some people require a cornea transplant when their cornea is significantly damaged due to injury or certain eye conditions. There are a few conditions that can damage your cornea over time. 

Fuch’s endothelial dystrophy is the most common corneal disease and can warp the shape of the cornea. Keratoconus is another corneal condition that can distort your cornea by causing it to bulge and thin.

Whether it’s due to a medical condition or injury, when the cornea becomes misshapen, cloudy, or distorted, it affects your ability to see. Refractive errors, like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, are caused by very minor irregularities in the shape of the eye. 

These errors can be corrected with corrective lenses. However, when the cornea becomes misshapen enough that corrective lenses can no longer correct your vision, the only way to restore your vision is with a cornea transplant.

How a Corneal Transplant Works

A cornea transplant, or keratoplasty, is when your cornea, or parts of your cornea, are removed and replaced with tissue from a donor cornea. A whole cornea transplant is rare, so it’s more likely that only the damaged part of your cornea will need to be replaced.

In fact, it may be that only some of the layers of your cornea in a specific area will be replaced. The less tissue that’s removed and replaced, the smaller the chance of rejection.

Different Kinds of Corneal Transplants

To better understand the different kinds of corneal transplants, it’s helpful to know how the cornea is structured. The cornea is made up of five different layers.

At the surface is a thin layer called the epithelium. Below that is Bowman’s layer. Below Bowman’s layer is a very thick layer that makes up the majority of the cornea called the stroma. 

Then below that is another thin layer called Descemet’s membrane. Finally, the layer that separates the cornea from the rest of the eye is the endothelium. 

Penetrating Keratoplasty (PKP)

Penetrating keratoplasty is the traditional kind of cornea transplant that removes and replaces all the layers. A PKP may be used to treat a severely damaged cornea or an aggressive corneal condition.

Other kinds of cornea transplants can be used to treat different types of corneal conditions. 

Deep Anterior Lamellar Keratoplast

y (DALK)

A deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty only removes the stroma down to Descemet’s membrane. Both DALK and PKP may be used to treat keratoconus, depending on the severity of the condition.

Endothelial Keratoplasty

At Chicago Cornea Consultants, we also offer an endothelial keratoplasty, where only the endothelial layer is removed and replaced. This can be used to treat Fuch’s endothelial dystrophy and failed previous corneal transplants. 

Do you want to learn more about cornea transplants and whether you may need one to treat an eye condition or injury? Schedule an appointment at Chicago Cornea Consultants in Chicago, IL, today to consult with one of our specialists.

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