HOW TO KEEP YOUR CORNEAS HEALTHY
The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped area at the front of the eye, covering the iris and pupil. Light enters the cornea, and its purpose is to refract that light onto the retina, which in turn delivers visual information to the brain.
The cornea is responsible for most of the eye’s total focusing power, making it crucial to clear, bright vision. It is composed of five layers: the corneal epithelium, Bowman’s layer, the corneal stroma, Descemet’s membrane, and the corneal endothelium. Each of these layers is incredibly fine and delicate. The cornea does not contain blood vessels, and relies on tear fluid and the aqueous humor to supply nutrients and oxygen.
Because the cornea contains a dense collection of nerve endings, it is highly sensitive to irritation and injury.
COMMON CORNEAL ISSUES
Corneal problems include inflammation, abrasions, ulcers, infections and diseases, which can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
- Eye pain or discomfort
- Sensitivity to light
- Redness or inflammation
- Blurred, distorted or hazy vision
- Excessive tearing or discharge
- A foreign body sensation
- A halo effect around lights
- Reduced visual clarity
- Corneal swelling or edema
If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention from your eye doctor or healthcare provider immediately.
TIPS FOR HEALTHY, HAPPY CORNEAS
With love and a little attention, your corneas should perform well for a lifetime. To keep your corneas – and eyes in general – comfortable and in good working order, we recommend that you follow these practices:
- Wash Your Hands. Hands can be an excellent source of bacteria, grit, pollen and other irritants. Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes. It may be a bit of a nuisance, but it is nothing compared to a corneal injury or infection.
- Rinse Out Irritants. If your eyes are frequently dry or irritated, carry eye drops with you, or talk to your eye doctor about ways to get more lasting results. If you get an irritant in your eye, flush out impurities with sterile eye drops or sterile eye wash. If necessary, you can run a very thin, gentle stream of cool water from the tap across your eye, away from the unaffected eye. If you suffer from allergies that make your eyes itch, consider allergy eye drops. If you wear contact lenses, keep cleaning solution and a case with you.
- Enjoy a Vitamin-rich Diet. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals, vitamins A, C, and E in particular, can help keep your eyes and corneas healthy. Green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits are good sources of these vitamins.
- Give Your Eyes a Break. Take routine breaks from staring, whether at screens, reading, writing or intricate work. Blink often, and employ the 20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds or more. And for every two hours you spend staring at anything, take a 15 minute break to help avoid fatigue.
- Wear Protective Gear. Wear protective eyewear such as safety glasses or goggles when participating in sports or performing activities or hobbies that could cause eye injury.
- Toss Out Old Eye Make Up. Liquid eye make-up, such as mascara and eyeliner, should be thrown away every 3-6 months, and sooner if it has changed in color, consistency or odor. Foundation and concealer may last 6 months to a year. Never share eye make-up with anyone.
- Quit smoking. Smoking can increase the risk of irritation, dryness and diseases that can damage the cornea.
- Don’t Wear Contacts Too Long. Misusing your contacts, that is, wearing them longer than instructed, wearing damaged lenses, or not cleaning or storing them adequately, can lead to infection. Also, sleeping in contact lenses, even ones rated for continuous wear, increases your risk of eye infection.
- Visit Your Eye Doctor Regularly. Nearly all eye problems can be prevented or mitigated with routine visits to your eye doctor. Regular comprehensive eye exams can help ensure any problems with your eyes, including your precious corneas, can be addressed before they have a chance to permanently damage your vision.