Also called corneal graft and penetrating keratoplasty, a cornea transplant replaces the damaged central corneal tissue with healthy corneal tissue. People with damaged corneal tissue have blurry vision or glary vision. It is estimated that about 40,000 people in the United States receive cornea transplant each year, 79% of which never suffer from graft rejection. Even if graft rejection occurs, it can be treated with successful management.
People with unhealthy cornea may have unsatisfying job performance. Their functional vision is also affected, which always can not be corrected by eyeglasses or contact lenses. There are many situations that require a cornea transplant, such as infection-caused scarring, keratoconus, hereditary factors, LASIK complications, chemical burns and excessive corneal swelling. Patients should also make a proper plan, since a cornea transplant needs a recovery period of six months to a year. Before receiving the surgery, you should also ask about the cost and potential vision benefits.
Healthy corneal tissue is supplied by a local eye bank, so that the recipient must wait for a donor eye. The donor cornea’s tissues must be meticulously screened for presence of diseases. A corneal transplant will be conducted on an outpatient basis and anesthesia is often used to relax the recipient’s eye muscles. During the two-hour surgery, a round, button-shaped corneal area will be removed and replaced with a nearly identical donor tissue. The smaller size of transplantation is the lower risk to cause irregular corneal shape. The patient’s eye should be shielded to avoid rubbing.
Graft rejection may happen at a low incidence after at least one month. Those early signs of graft rejection include redness, light sensitivity, decreased vision and pain. Medications are available to reverse the rejection process. The worst case is second cornea transplantation.
Most of the people can return to work within several days after the surgery if necessary, but they should be prohibited from heavy exercise and lifting during the first weeks. Patients should also protect eyes from external objects, since their eyes are fragile during the recovery period. The doctor will probably prescribe steroid eye drops to help the patient recover. The whole recovery process can last as long as a year. For those with low healing rate, stitches may be removed after 17 months.
Since the curve of the cornea transplant can not match exactly the curve of your existing cornea, corrective glasses are needed after a cornea transplant. And your vision will be stable after the healing process is finished, after which your eyewear’s prescription can be accurately determined. Most doctors recommend RGPs for patients after a cornea transplant, since their cornea’s surface may be slightly affected.
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