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Eye Health Center

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Corneal Opacities: Eye Disorders That Can Cause Vision Loss

Corneal Dystrophies continued...

Map-dot-fingerprint dystrophy causes small gaps between the outer layer and the rest of the cornea, called epithelial erosions. These gaps cause blurred vision, pain, and other symptoms that often flare up between ages 40 and 70. Usually the symptoms go away on their own without causing vision loss. Many people don't even know they have map-dot-fingerprint dystrophy. When symptoms occur, treatment may include eye drops and ointments, patching the eye, and removing eroded parts of the cornea.

Keratoconus is a progressive thinning of the cornea that affects 1 in 500 people in the U.S., usually in their teens and 20s, but it can occur in nearly every decade of life. With keratoconus, the cornea becomes thin and bulges outward in a cone shape, like a hernia. The condition can cause moderate to severe blurred vision, multiple images, glare, and halos around objects at night and rob people of the ability to lead a normal life. Often nearsightedness and astigmatism develop from keratoconus. Other symptoms include swelling and scarring of the cornea. In mild cases most people can manage the condition with eyeglasses or special contact lenses. In moderate to severe cases. corneal crosslinking a procedure that uses riboflavin and light to strengthen the cornea is generally recommended to prevent further worsening of disease. Procedures such as intacs can help improve vision by partially reversing keratoconus. Corneal transplant, a surgery that replaces the cornea with a cadaver cornea, may be an option. Often contact lenses and glasses are required afterwards to improve sight.

Other Conditions That Cause Corneal Opacities

Other eye problems and disorders can also lead to corneal opacity, including:

  • Iridocorneal endothelial syndrome, a condition that affects both the iris and cornea, usually only in one eye. It also causes glaucoma, which can be treated with medication.
  • Pterygium, a red vascular growth of tissue on the cornea.
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a skin disorder that also can affect the eyes.

Preventing Corneal Opacities

Although corneal opacities have many causes, there are a few things you can do to help prevent damage to your cornea:

Wear protective eyewear. Protect your eyes with goggles or safety glasses during activities that can cause eye injury. This includes using power tools, chopping wood, or handling chemicals. Also be sure to wear sunglasses when spending time outdoors. Make sure your children also wear sunglasses.

Use contact lenses correctly. Follow your eye doctor's instructions for properly handling, storing, and disinfecting soft contact lenses.

Have regular eye exams. Many eye conditions can be detected early, before symptoms develop. Also be sure to see your eye doctor right away if you injure your eye or develop any unusual eye symptoms or vision problems.

Know your family history for eye diseases. Because corneal dystrophies are hereditary, you may be at risk if someone in your family has eye disease.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Brian S. Boxer Wachler, MD on November 05, 2013
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