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Cornea and External Diseases

Corneal and external diseases refer to eye conditions that affect the ocular surface. Some of the common conditions that affect the ocular surface include dry eye, blepharitis, allergies, conjunctivitis, corneal infections, and corneal dystrophies which may cause clouding of the cornea.

Allergies

Allergies affecting the eyes are fairly common, especially those related to pollen and other environmental allergens, contact allergies, medications, and contact lens wear. The most prominent symptom is itching but symptoms can include redness, burning and watery discharge as well. Treatment may include reducing your exposure to the allergen when possible. Topical eye drops or ointment and/or oral medications may be indicated to help treat allergic ocular conditions.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is a chronic eye disease that is often characterized by inflammation of the eyelids. Additionally, it can cause symptoms such as red, burning, or itchy eyes, light sensitivity, and blurred vision, among others. Blepharitis can be caused by bacteria or a skin condition, and your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, eye drops, or ointments. Learn more on blepharitis.

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Conjunctivitis refers to a diverse group of diseases and conditions that may cause watery or thick discharge, swelling, burning and redness of the conjunctiva, a mucous membrane that lines the eyelids and covers the white part of the eye (the sclera). Conjunctivitis is usually mild but may be severe. It is sometimes highly contagious, affecting millions of Americans at any given time. Typically caused by a virus, bacteria, allergies, environmental irritants, contact lens products, or eye drops can also play a role. Our specialists will determine best therapy based on your symptoms and findings on examination. Viral conjunctivitis often does not require intervention and will resolve on its own. Bacterial conjunctivitis is rare, but if present, will typically be treated with topical antibiotics.

Corneal Infections

Rare infections can be caused by bacteria or fungi from a contaminated contact lens; or damage to the cornea from trauma. These infections cause pain and discharge and can reduce vision Thinning and scarring of the cornea can result in permanent vision loss that may require a corneal transplant. Minor infections are commonly treated with antibiotic eye drops. If the problem is severe, it may require more intensive antibiotic or anti-fungal treatment, as well as steroid eye drops to reduce inflammation.

Corneal Dystrophies

Corneal dystrophies are conditions in which the normal clarity of the cornea is reduced due to a buildup of abnormal deposits in the cornea. There are over 20 corneal dystrophies that affect all parts of the cornea. These diseases are usually inherited, affect both eyes, and are not caused by outside factors, such as injury or diet. Most corneal dystrophies progress gradually and occur in otherwise healthy people. Some dystrophies cause severe visual impairment while others cause minimal visual problems. The most common corneal dystrophies include Fuchs’ dystrophy, lattice dystrophy, and map-dot-fingerprint dystrophy.

Dry Eye

When the eye is unable to produce enough tears to keep it properly lubricated or the tear film is improperly balanced, this is known as dry eye. It is a very common diagnosis that affects millions of people worldwide. UConn Health has established the Dry Eye Center with knowledgeable ophthalmologists who can quickly diagnose and treat dry eye in patients. Learn more about the Dry Eye Center.

Keratoconus

Keratoconus is a condition in which the normal cornea, which is dome-like and spherical in shape, becomes thin in one area and develops a cone-like shape. The cornea is critical in refracting or focusing light on the retina so that you can see clearly. When the cornea shape is altered then vision can be distorted or blurred.

Keratoconus may affect one or both eyes. It can start in the late teens and early twenties. The vision may worsen gradually, although, on occasion, it can advance quickly if there is sudden swelling of the cornea. Keratoconus is diagnosed by an eye examination and a special instrument that maps the corneal contour. If the vision is good, treatment may include simply wearing glasses. If the vision worsens over time, special keratoconus contact lenses may be fitted and are typically the mainstay of improving vision. Eye rubbing is discouraged as sometimes this can lead to progression of the keratoconus. Procedures such as collagen cross-linking to stabilize the cornea from further thinning and corneal transplantation may be necessary to help improve vision.​