Your cornea is the transparent surface over your eye's surface, responsible for a large part of the eye's focusing power. Your corneas help focus the light that enters your eyes, by bending it. They also protect your eyes from dust and germs and by filtering out UV rays from the sun. Damage to one or both of your corneas may affect your ability to see clearly. A number of conditions can cause damage to your corneas such as keratoconus, Fuchs' dystrophy as well as scarring, swelling, thinning or clouding of the cornea due to infection or injury. Dr Uys may recommend corneal transplant surgery if you have vision loss or are in considerable pain.
Corneal transplant surgery, or keratoplasty, involves the removal of part of the cornea so that it can be replaced with a new section taken from a donor. There are a number of cornea replacement surgeries which can be performed, one being a full thickness corneal transplant and the other, a lamellar corneal transplant. During a full thickness corneal transplant (penetrating keratoplasty), the ophthalmologist will transfer all layers of the cornea from a donor to restore your sight. During a lamellar corneal transplant (endothelial keratoplasty) on the other hand, only selected layers are transplanted. If only specific layers of your cornea are damaged, a lamellar corneal transplant may be recommended as it is less invasive, and the recovery time is generally much faster than that of a full thickness corneal transplant. Dr Enslin Uys will refer you to one of his colleagues that perform this surgery on a regular basis. Common reasons for corneal transplant surgery are keratoconus, corneal scarring and endothelial dystrophy. Keep in mind that you will not be able to drive after corneal transplant surgery and will thus need to make arrangements for someone to drive you home after your surgery. As you recover from surgery, you will need to use prescribed eye drops, wear protective eyewear such as sunglasses and be wary not to rub your eye or eyes. Pain medication may be taken as necessary. Depending on the type of corneal transplant you have and how you heal, it may take up to a year to fully recover from this surgery.