When Do I Need a Corneal Transplant? [+What to Expect]

When Do I Need a Corneal Transplant?

Scratches and abrasions to the cornea can be frustrating since they can affect your short-term vision. Fortunately, minor cases should heal on their own after a couple of days. But what happens when the cornea doesn’t heal? In some cases, a corneal transplant may be necessary.

You may need a corneal transplant if you experience an eye injury, infection, or disease. Severe injuries can prevent the cornea from healing properly while infections can cause scarring that requires medical attention. Eye diseases can cause the cornea to thicken and bulge out. Fortunately, surgical procedures are available to treat these issues. 

When do I need a corneal transplant?

Our surgeons will let you know if you’re in need of a corneal transplant. However, there are signs that the procedure may be in your future. This could be due to injury, infection, or eye disease. Talk with your eye doctor about any issues that you may be having. They’ll set up a comprehensive eye exam to help you get the health care that you need.

Eye Injuries

The cornea is the outermost lens of your eye, helping to focus light as it enters to help you see. Some eye injuries can damage the cornea severely enough that it can’t heal properly. Even small injuries can make it harder for you to see, and a transplant may be the only way to restore your vision if it’s a severe injury.

Eye Infections

Similar to eye injuries, eye infections can result in scarring that can make it harder for you to see. A common eye infection is HSV keratitis, which affects around 1.5 million people worldwide. It’s also responsible for 40,000 cases of vision loss or impaired vision per year. In cases like these, a cornea transplant may be necessary to restore your vision.

Eye infections can result in ulcers that need to be treated. Click here to learn more!

Eye Diseases

Eye diseases can affect your cornea in multiple ways that may require a corneal transplant. These eye problems may include the thinning and thickening of the damaged cornea, resulting in severe vision problems. Two common medical conditions affecting the cornea are keratoconus and Fuchs’ dystrophy. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, keratoconus causes the cornea to thin and bulge into more of a cone shape. This results in blurred vision and possible sensitivity to light and glare. It’s usually treated with glasses or contact lenses in its early stages. However, the disease may require surgery if it’s not treated early on.

Fuchs’ dystrophy causes fluid to build up in the cornea, resulting in thickening and swelling. As with keratoconus, sufferers can experience blurry or clouded vision, glare, and general discomfort. You may be given saline eye drops or soft contacts in the early stages, but advanced cases will require surgery. 

There are many other corneal issues that can affect your vision. Click here to learn more!

Types of Surgeries

There are different types of surgery for corneal transplantation and your surgeon will choose the best one for your needs. Surgery options include:

corneal transplant knoxville, tn

  • Full-thickness corneal transplant
  • Partial-thickness corneal transplant
  • Endothelial keratoplasty

Full-thickness corneal transplants are used when the front and inner layers of the cornea have been damaged. Also known as penetrating keratoplasty (PK), your surgeon will remove the damaged cornea and replace it with a new, clear donor cornea.

The ​​partial-thickness corneal transplant is recommended when the front and middle layers of tissue have been damaged. For this surgical procedure, your doctor will remove the damaged layers and leave the layers in the back. Also known as an anterior lamellar keratoplasty, this procedure is popular for treating keratoconus. 

Endothelial keratoplasty treats the innermost layers of the cornea, or endothelium. In this procedure, your surgeon will replace the damaged tissue with healthy donor tissue to fight the swelling and poor vision. This type of surgery is considered a partial transplant since only one layer of the cornea is replaced with donated tissue.

Eye injuries, infections, and diseases may require a corneal transplant to be fixed. Severe eye injuries can interfere with your cornea’s healing process while infections can lead to scarring that reduces your vision. Eye diseases can cause the cornea to bulge out and thicken. Fortunately, surgical procedures have been developed to treat these eye problems.

Are you concerned about the health of your cornea? Contact us today to schedule your consultation!


Baptist Eye Surgeons is an ophthalmological practice in Knoxville, TN, and Morristown, TN. Give us a call at 865-579-3920 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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