Corneal blindness encompasses a variety of eye conditions that result in loss of clarity or distortion of the shape of the cornea, leading to loss of vision.
Common causes of corneal blindness in the developing world include:
- Corneal scarring following bacterial, fungal or viral infection
- Vitamin A deficiency
- Eye trauma
- Thermal or toxic injury, including corneal scarring secondary to the use of traditional medications instilled in the eye for treatment of a self-limited ocular disease
Incidence of corneal blindness
According to the World Health Organization, 314 million individuals worldwide are visually impaired, which represents 4.6% of the world's population. It is estimated that 45 million individuals worldwide are blind, eight million from corneal disease. Corneal blindness is the world's fourth leading cause of blindness, following cataract, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration.
Treatment of corneal blindness
The appropriate treatment of corneal blindness in an individual patient depends on the cause. Corneal scarring or significant distortion of the normal corneal shape often require corneal transplantation to restore a clear cornea of normal contour. While surgical replacement of all of the layers of the cornea has been previously used to manage disease of only a particular layer of the cornea, recently developed techniques of corneal transplant surgery have been developed to replace only the diseased layer of the cornea, resulting in more rapid recovery of vision and decreased risk of complications following surgery. Additionally, artificial corneal transplantation is an effective means of restoring vision to patients with corneal blindness who are either not candidates for traditional corneal transplantation or have a history of repeat corneal transplant failure.
What we do to treat corneal blindness
Surgical skills transfer
Our members are highly skilled corneal surgeons who are recognized as experts in both traditional full-thickness corneal transplantation (penetrating keratoplasty; PK) and newer forms of partial thickness corneal transplant surgery such as Descemet's stripping endothelial keratoplasty (DSEK) and deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty (DALK), as well as artificial corneal transplantation (keratoprosthesis) surgery. We are dedicated to transferring the skills required to perform these sight-restoring procedures to our colleagues around the globe.
Eye bank development
While donor corneal tissue is readily available for use in the United States, this is not the case in most countries. Lack of donor corneal tissue and lack of properly trained surgeons are the two main obstacles to the treatment of corneal blindness in the developing world. Thus, we focus our efforts not just on surgical skills transfer, but also in facilitating the development and growth of eye banks in various countries.