The cornea is a transparent part that covers the iris, pupil, and the anterior part of the eye. The main function of the cornea is to refract or bend the light that enters our eyes. The cornea consists of proteins and cells; it doesn’t contain blood vessels like the other parts of the body. This is because blood vessels may cloud the cornea leading to difficulties in refracting the light which might cause vision problems. As there are no blood vessels providing nutrition to the cornea, tears and aqueous humour in the anterior part of the eye help the cornea to get the required nutrition.
The cornea is divided into five layers: the epithelium, Bowman’s layer, the stroma, Descemet’s membrane, and the endothelium. The first layer i.e. the epithelium is a layer of cells that covers the cornea. It is responsible for absorbing the nutrition and the oxygen from tears and transferring it all over the cornea. It also helps the eyes by preventing foreign bodies to enter. The cornea recovers very quickly from minor abrasions but deep abrasions lead in forming scars on the cornea which may result in vision problems.
Cornea also acts as a barrier against germs, dirt, and other things that can harm the eyes. The cornea also helps in filtering some UV Ray’s but it cannot filter it in a large quantity. Therefore, it is advised to wear sunglasses when you are outdoors. You should never look directly towards the sunlight with your bare eyes as it causes great damage to your eyes.
Many eye problems are related to the cornea. Some of them are mentioned below.
SYMPTOMS RELATED TO CORNEA PROBLEMS
The cornea can be affected due to several diseases, infections, tissue breakdown or some problems can be genetic I.e. passed down in the family. Some of the symptoms that are a sign of some kind of cornea problems are:
- Pain in the eye
- Blurry visions
- Excess water production in the eyes
- Redness and itchiness in the eye
- Extreme sensitivity to light
Some symptoms might lead to severe eye problems. Therefore, it is advised to see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms present. Do not wait for the situation to get worse as it can only be more harmful to the eyes.
CONDITIONS THAT CAN CAUSE DAMAGE
KERATITIS: It occurs when bacteria, virus or fungi enters the cornea. They can enter after some injury and causes infections, inflammation. It can also occur if you wear damaged or improper contact lenses. Some of the symptoms of keratitis are:
- Severe pain in the eyes
- Blurry vision
- Extreme water discharge from the eye
- Redness and sensitivity to light
This can be treated by using antibiotics or antifungal eye drops. You might also be given some antiviral drugs or steroid eye drops.
OCULAR HERPES: like viral fever, this disease can also come back again and again. The major cause is the herpes simplex virus l (HSV l), this is the same cause that leads to cold sores. It can also occur due to sexually transmitted herpes simplex virus ll (HSV ll) that leads to genital herpes.
With time this condition spreads all over the cornea and may get deeper in the eye. There is no cure for this treatment. However, you can control it by using antiviral drugs and steroid eye drops.
HERPES ZOSTER: this occurs in people who have had chickenpox. The major reason behind it is, after recovering from the chickenpox all the itchiness goes away but the virus causing it stays in the body. The virus that stays down in the body becomes inactive for that moment. But later in life it may get activated and affect specific parts of the bodies, mainly the eyes. You may get a rash on the face that leads to the sore cornea.
It usually heals all by itself or you may be prescribed with antiviral medicines and topical steroid eye drops.
The greater chances for this to happen are usually for the people who get chickenpox after the age of 80 or to those who have a weaker immune system.
It occurs when you get a scratch on your cornea. This happens when you poke your eyes or something gets trapped inside your eyelids like dirt or any other foreign bodies. When this happens your eyes hurt and if you keep them close then it stings and burns.
Several reasons can lead to corneal abrasions. Some of them are:
- Poking the eyes with fingernails, makeup, or pen.
- When dirt, sand, or other foreign matters gets stuck in the eyelids.
- Get chemicals in the eye.
- Wearing improper or damaged contact lenses.
- Eye infections.
- Going through surgery without proper eye protection.
- Playing sports or taking an active part in other outdoor activities without safety eyewear.
- Over wearing your contact lenses.
HOW TO PREVENT CORNEA
If you get something in your eye there is an urge of rubbing your eyes. Do not rub the eyes as this is how you get a scratch on the cornea. Rather follow some simple steps:
- Blink your eyes several times
- Pull your upper over the lower eyelid
- Rinse your eyes gently with cold water or a sterile saline solution.
Don’t try to remove if something gets stuck in your cornea all by yourself. Only a doctor is trained to do that. After following the steps mentioned above if you still feel there is something in your eye consult a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will look into your eyes and use a product called eye strain that helps to look at the cornea and its surface properly. If something is there your doctor will safely remove it.
SYMPTOMS OF CORNEAL ABRASIONS
Some of the major symptoms of eye scratch or cornea abrasions are:
- Feels like there is something in your eye
- Pain in the eyes especially when you open or close it
- Water discharge and redness in the eye
- Blurred vision
TREATMENT FOR CORNEAL ABRASIONS
Your doctor might provide some ointments or antibiotic eye drops so that your eyes do not get infected. You might also be prescribed some medicated eye drops to ease the pain and the redness in the eye.
If there is a minor scratch it will heal within 1-3 days but if there is a major scratch it will take some more time to heal.
While your eye heals:
- Do not rub your eyes.
- Do not wear contact lenses until the doctor allows you to wear them.
- Wear sunglasses to prevent your eyes from UV Ray’s.
You can cure minor scratches very easily but major scratches can cause infections, scars, and maybe other problems. If you don’t take care of it properly it may lead to long term problems or permanent vision problems. Therefore, one should always be vigilant if you have any kind of eye problem and consult the doctor as soon as possible.
The cornea is the part of the eye which allows only the required amount of light to enter our eyes. If it gets damaged there can be many risk factors to the eyes. There are many diseases that can occur in the cornea i.e. keratitis or herpes zoster. You should visit a doctor if you have symptoms of the mentioned diseases. You might also have corneal abrasions; it can severely cause damage to the eyes. Get an eye exam done as soon as possible. Keep your eyes healthy and safe to get rid of the problems and avoid having them in the future.