A cornea specialist is essentially an eye doctor who focuses on diseases of the cornea. The cornea is the dome-shaped, clear part of the eye, which is located at the front.
There are a number of diseases and conditions by which the cornea can be affected and a lot of them can result in loss of vision. Included among these diseases and conditions are:
- Corneal infections
- Dry eye syndrome
- Corneal ulcers
- Corneal abrasions
- Corneal scarring
- Fuchs’ dystrophy
- Inflammation of the cornea
- Pediatric corneal diseases
- Traumatic injuries to the cornea
A cornea specialist may work as a member of a larger ophthalmology team, or in his or her own practice. Cornea specialists’ work typically includes diagnosing, treating and managing a number of different ocular conditions that may also involve the cornea. A valid license and a medical degree are requirements for those who want to work in this field. Cornea specialists receive 2 additional years of training and certifications for surgery and specialty care of the eye and cornea.
A number of patients in Houston are referred to a cornea specialist by another physician, who believes the patient would benefit from an experienced specialist with extensive knowledge in a particular area of concern. Based on their symptoms, others may go directly to a cornea specialist and request an appointment to meet with him or her.
Typically, appointments start with a consultation between the doctor and patient. During the consultation, medical history will be collected and the patient’s eyes will be briefly examined by the physician. This enables cornea specialists to collect and scrutinize the information to make a decision on how to proceed.
Options for treatment will vary based on the diagnosis and the unique circumstances of the patient. A number of individuals, especially those who have progressive conditions, will eventually need to have a corneal transplant. When infection, injury, or disease causes the cornea to become misshapen or cloudy, a replacement will be required. This is done with a donor’s healthy tissue, and a cornea specialist will perform the surgery.
In some cases, the doctor will provide patients with immediate information regarding treatment options. However, for others, it may be necessary to do some additional testing to figure out the nature of the condition affecting the cornea. This is instrumental to the development of the best possible treatment plan. The options may include surgical procedures and medications to address issues that range from infections to corneal scarring. Some patients may be required to return for follow-up treatments several times during the process. This enables the cornea specialist to examine the eye and monitor its progress.
A cornea specialist provides surgical procedures like surgical debridement of eyes, cataract surgery, LASIK, and transplants. Surgical debridement involves removing infectious material or debris trapped on or in the cornea. There are some procedures that can be carried out in an office or clinic. However, other procedures have to be performed in an operating room specially equipped for the particular surgery. Larger eye clinics typically have their own operating facilities. Smaller practices usually arrange space, as required, at a hospital.
An Alternative to Surgery
There are some corneal conditions that are eligible to be treated with PTK or phototherapeutic keratectomy. These conditions include certain dystrophies, infections and scars. PTK is essentially an innovative option that your cornea specialist can use instead of performing corneal transplant. However, not every individual is suitable for this treatment. The patients who undergo this procedure are carefully selected. During the procedure, a computer-guided excimer laser is used, with precision, to vaporize layers of diseased or damaged corneal tissue. This effectively removes the surface irregularities these conditions cause. The surrounding tissue endures only a little trauma and there is growth of new tissue over the recently smoothed surface. Recovery from a corneal transplant takes months; however, it can only take a few days to recover from PTK.
Differences Among Optometrists, Ophthalmologist, and Cornea Specialists
These healthcare professionals provide primary vision care. The level of care includes sight testing, vision correction, diagnosing abnormalities, administering treatment, and managing vision changes. Optometrists are not medical doctors; they receive an OD or a doctor of optometry degree. This is awarded upon the completion of four years in optometry school, which is preceded by at least three years in college. These professionals are also required to receive a license to practice optometry.
An ophthalmologist is essentially an osteopathic or medical doctor. He or she specializes in vision and eye care. Ophthalmologists are different from optometrists in their levels of training. They also differ in the diagnosis they can make, and the treatment they can administer. These medical doctors have completed college and undergone at least 8 additional years of medical training. They are licensed to practice surgery and medicine. Ophthalmologists diagnose and treat all eye diseases, perform surgical procedures, and prescribe and fit contact lenses, and eyeglasses for vision correction. Additionally, a number of ophthalmologists are deeply involved in scientific research to uncover the causes and cures for vision disorders and eye diseases.
Cornea abnormalities typically require specialized training that goes beyond what is standard for eye doctors. Cornea specialists in Houston are among the best, and they use the latest technology and methods to treat different types of corneal injuries, diseases, and disorders. A number of cornea specialists have pursued fellowship training particular to the cornea. They usually go above and beyond the requirements for becoming board-certified ophthalmologists.
These doctors often pursue continuing education to provide their patients with the best treatment options and to keep up their licenses. They also often develop and read trade publications, and attend conferences and other training programs to discover the latest information, and learn new methods and techniques. There is a constant expansion of treatment options and it helps to be familiar with available treatments, and their applications, to provide patients with this information.
Dr. John Goosey is a premier cornea specialist in Houston, who has been practicing for over 40 years in the field. Schedule your appointment for your next eye exam today!