Corneal disease

What is corneal disease?

The cornea is the clear front surface of the eye. A corneal disease is any condition that affects the cornea and blocks some or all light, reducing vision.

  • What causes corneal disease?

    Corneal disease may be caused by damage from

    • scratches or sharp objects

    • chemical injury

    • infection (including viruses, bacteria and fungi)

    • inherited disorders that change the cornea’s shape or thickness

    • other health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis

  • What are the symptoms of corneal disease?

    Damage to the cornea may cause reduced vision, redness, pain or discharge. Infectious corneal ulcers are generally very painful.

  • Treatments for corneal disease

    Treatments for corneal disease will depend on the specific cause and may include eye drops, antibiotics and vitamins. But there are limited options.

    One option is to have a corneal transplant. This involves surgery to remove the damaged cornea and replace it with a healthy one from a donor.

    Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we have been able to establish the UK Corneal Transplant Service. This has enabled over 52,000 transplants.

    Unfortunately there is a huge shortage of donors. This means that only a few of the 1.5 million people each year who could benefit from a corneal transplant are able to have one.

  • How to prevent corneal disease?

    Wearing safety glasses or protective goggles can shield the eye from injury when working with hazardous or airborne materials. This may also work for certain sports or activities at home such as DIY, gardening or setting off fireworks.

    People who wear contact lenses are at special risk of corneal infection. Good contact lens hygiene is vital, for example not sleeping in lenses and always using the proper cleaning solution. Never shower or swim in contact lenses.

  • Latest Research on corneal disease

    Our research aims to restore sight lost to corneal disease. Because there is such a shortage of donors, we have a focus on finding ways to repair or replace damaged cells in the cornea.

    Latest projects

    The genetics of conditions that affect the cornea’s inner lining

    1 October 15 - 30 September 19

    Looking for alternatives to corneal transplant surgery.

    Find out more

    Developing stem cell therapy as an alternative to corneal transplants.

    1 October 14 - 30 September 17

    Finding a way around the shortage of donors

    Find out more

    More cornea research

  • Corneal disease clinical trials

    You could play an important part in eye research by being a participant in clinical research study that may benefit many people. You could even help shape clinical research by becoming more actively involved and having a say. Patients, carer, or anyone with an interest can help.

    What are clinical trials

    Clinical trials are research studies that find out if a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. They are a key research tool for improving medical knowledge and patient care. The people who carry out research are mostly the same doctors and healthcare professionals who treat people. Their aim is to find better ways of treating patients and keeping people healthy.

    Taking part

    Here are some ways to find out about research projects and clinical trials that you can get involved in.

    UK Clinical Trials Gateway

    The UK Clinical Trials Gateway run by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) provides easy to understand information about clinical research trials running in the UK, and gives to a large range of information about these trials. It is designed to enable patients and clinicians to locate and contact trials of interest. Visit their website and select the eye condition that you are interested in.

    NIHR Clinical Research Network Portfolio

    The NIHR Clinical Research Network Portfolio is a database of high-quality clinical research studies in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Within this the Ophthalmology Specialty Group supports a national portfolio of research studies in ophthalmology and the vision sciences. See their website for details.

    If you wish to join a trial it is always best to discuss this with your doctor or clinical team first.

Last updated August 2015
Approved by Mr Frank Larkin, Moorfields Eye Hospital

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