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Corneas are the clear, front windows of the eye. You can't see them, but they cover your iris and your pupil, and are responsible for focusing your vision. Corneas can be damaged by disease or injury, and sometimes, this damage can't be fixed, leaving people with pain or vision problems. If your corneas are damaged, you may be able to get corneal transplants to restore your sight. Here's what you need to know about this amazing surgery.
Will you be awake for the procedure?
As with other eye surgeries, you will need to be awake during the procedure. You will be given local anesthetic to numb your eyes, and if you're feeling very nervous, you'll also be given a sedative.
Where do the donor corneas come from?
Your new corneas will come from a recently deceased person who was a registered organ donor. If this makes you nervous, don't worry; the corneas are tested and are safe. First, the donor's medical and social history will be considered, which will rule out people with infectious diseases, or people with high risk lifestyles, like intravenous drug use. Next, the corneas will be closely examined to make sure they are high quality. If the doctors decide the cornea is safe and high quality, it can be yours in as little as 12 hours!
How common are corneal transplants?
Corneal transplants are frequently performed in the United States. More than one million Americans have undergone the procedure since 1961. As the population ages, the procedure is becoming even more common, and an average of 59,000 of these transplants are now done every year in the United States.
How successful are corneal transplants?
Corneal transplants are very successful, and they will restore your vision about 95% of the time. In the other 5% of cases, the tissue is rejected, and the transplant fails. Rejection is most common in the first year after your procedure, so during this time, you need to take any anti-rejection medications that you are prescribed. Vision problems and redness, sensitivity, and pain in the eye are all possible signs of rejection, so if you notice those signs, see your optometrist right away. Most rejection episodes can be successfully treated with medication.
Corneal transplants are a common surgery, and they're very successful. If your corneas are damaged and are affecting your quality of life, ask your optometrist if you would be a good candidate for this eye surgery.