Is a Corneal Transplant Right For Me?

Is a Corneal Transplant Right For Me?

August 15th, 2022

The cornea is the clear tissue at the front of the eye that allows light to enter. Damage to this tissue can lead to severe vision loss. 

Even minor damage can cause cloudiness, or the cornea can become misshapen. In some cases, a corneal transplant may be necessary to restore and protect vision.

Keep reading to learn if a corneal transplant may be right for you!

Donation of Sight

In order to transplant a cornea, your eye doctor must first obtain donor tissue. Corneal transplantation is one of the most successful tissues or organ transplant procedures.

A human donor is someone who has indicated they’d donate their organs and tissues in the event of death. Organ donors make corneal transplantation possible, resulting in a full or partial transplant.

The medical term for corneal transplantation is keratoplasty. During a keratoplasty, a corneal surgeon replaces a damaged or poorly-functioning cornea with the donor’s cornea. 

Reasons for Corneal Damage

Conditions that can lead to keratoplasty include:

  • Complications from cataract surgery or other eye surgery
  • Corneal dystrophy
  • Corneal scarring
  • Corneal swelling
  • Previous eye trauma or injury
  • Keratitis
  • Keratoconus

Types of Corneal Transplant Surgery

Some types of surgery involve replacing the entire cornea, and others replace only certain parts. The various types of transplants include:

Endothelial Keratoplasty

The inner layer of the damaged cornea is replaced with the healthy inner layer of a donor cornea. 

Anterior Lamellar Keratoplasty 

The outer layer of the cornea is replaced with the healthy outer layer of a donor cornea. Those with keratoconus or who have scarring of these outer layers are usually candidates for this procedure.

Penetrating Keratoplasty  

When all layers of the cornea need replacement, the damaged cornea is replaced with a healthy donor cornea. 


When a cornea is so severely damaged that transplantation is not possible with a natural donor cornea, or when a previous donor cornea transplant has failed, this procedure replaces the entire cornea with an artificial cornea. 

Transplant Rejection

As with other organ and tissue donations, cornea transplant rejection can occur, sometimes several months to several years after surgery. If addressed quickly, it’s reversible and may not impair the function of the transplanted cornea. 

To minimize the risk of transplant rejection, follow all instructions given post-surgery.

Possible Complications

While not as significant as corneal transplant rejection, these minor complications can occur after transplant surgery:

  • Cataracts
  • Detachment of the new cornea
  • Eye inflammation
  • Refractive errors requiring glasses or contact lenses
  • New onset or worsening of glaucoma
  • Infections 
  • Retinal detachment

What to Expect After Surgery

In most cases of corneal transplantation, you should be able to go home the same day as surgery. Your eye doctor will likely ask you to have someone drive you home and make sure you’re settled in once you’re there. 

Following post-surgery instructions and taking any prescribed medication on the recommended schedule will minimize problems.

RSVP for Symptoms

To help patients easily identify possible complications after surgery, eye doctors often use the acronym RSVP. This stands for: 

  • Redness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Vision decrease
  • Pain

If you experience any of these symptoms after the procedure, let your eye doctor know right away.

Looking to the Future

After surgery, it’ll take a while to see clearly. Your sight will improve after your corneal transplant begins to heal. 

Thanks to this procedure, you should expect to have many years of good vision ahead of you.

Do you want to learn more about corneal transplants? Schedule an appointment at Laser Eye Center in Hunstville, AL, today!