What is the cornea?


The cornea is a remarkable transparent structure located at the front of the eye that helps to focus light and protect the internal structures of the eye. It is commonly referred to as the window into the eye. The shape of the cornea is important to the focusing of light on the retina in the back of the eye. This is how images are delivered so you can see. A properly shaped and healthy cornea allows this light to focus clearly, providing crisp vision. It is important that the cornea remain clear so the light can pass through to the retina without being interrupted. If the cornea gets hazy or cloudy, or if the shape of the cornea becomes irregular, vision can be impaired. Some causes of this include age, trauma, or disease. When vision is impaired it is important to seek medical treatment.

At Colorado Eye Institute, Dr. James Lee, cornea specialist, is an expert in his field and has treated thousands of corneal conditions and performed hundreds of rapid recovery corneal transplants. He has been given the honor of being listed as one of the Top 10 Ophthalmologist in Colorado. To learn more about Dr. James Lee (link).

Most Common Conditions:


Dry Eye

Dry Eye is a condition where the eyes are incapable of staying lubricated. This could be from lack of producing enough tears or increased evaporation of tears. Tears are important in maintaining clear vision, reducing the risk of infection, washing away foreign objects, and by keeping the eyes smooth and clear.

Symptoms of dry eye include redness, burning, grittiness, pain, excessive tearing, foreign body sensation, discomfort wearing contact lenses, and blurred vision.

Common causes of dry eyes include aging, environmental factors, allergies, hormonal changes, a reaction to some medications and certain health conditions. Autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthiritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome to name a few can lead to dry eyes.

A variety of treatment options are available for dry eyes, most commonly: lubricating drops, prescriptions, punctual plugs, and dietary supplements. The right choice will depend on the cause(s) and severity of your dry eye.

Fuch’s Dystrophy

Fuch’s dystrophy is an eye disease that usually affects both eyes, in which cells lining the inner surface of the cornea start to die off. It is more commonly seen in women than in men and vision problems usually occur around the age of 50, although, doctors may be able to see signs of the disease in affected persons at an earlier age.

Generally, symptoms may include:
• Hazy or cloudy vision
• Glare and halos around certain objects
• Reduced visual acuity
• Reduced ability to discern contrasts
• Difficulty driving at night
• Fluctuation in vision, especially in the early morning. As the condition advances the fluctuation becomes more persistent throughout the day
• Pain in the eye, if the condition is more advanced and blisters have formed.

There are two stages. The first stage produce no symptoms or only mild symptoms. During this stage, the swelling of the corneal cells usually occurs in the morning and tends to clear as the day progresses. Vision is worse in the morning because closing your eyes during sleep keeps moisture from evaporating out of the cornea.

Stage two, vision no longer gets better later in the day. Some experience pain and can be sensitive to light. Over time, some people develop scarring at the center of their cornea. The film of scar tissue over the cornea reduces vision.


Fuch’s dystrophy affects the thin layer of cells that line the back part of the cornea. These cells help pump excess fluid out of the cornea. As more cells are lost, fluid begins to build up in the cornea, causing swelling and a cloudiness and you will start to notice a slow decrease in vision. Initially patients will notices blurred vision in the morning and as it progresses one’s vision can be blurred all day long.

Early stages can be treated with eye drops or ointments that draws fluid out of the cornea. When severe, a corneal transplant can be performed.