You might not think much about your cornea, but it’s an interesting part of your eye anatomy. It’s the clear outer layer on the front of your eye, and its job is to let light into your eye so you can see.
If your cornea becomes damaged, light can’t enter your eye normally, and functional vision is no longer possible. This is where corneal transplants (corneal grafting) come into the picture. During a corneal transplant, your damaged or diseased cornea is surgically removed and replaced with a healthy cornea from a donor. This procedure has been performed for decades and helped 49,000 Americans regain their vision in 2021 alone 一 and it’s available here in Bay Ridge.
If you have concerns about your vision, our team of experts at Ophthalmology Associates of Bay Ridge in the Brooklyn borough of New York City encourage you to visit us and learn more about the benefits of corneal grafting.
In the meantime, let’s explore three interesting facts about the cornea that will enhance your understanding of this vital structure.
Your cornea is a transparent, dome-shaped structure located at the front of your eye. It acts as a protective barrier and shields your inner eye from external elements such as dust, debris, and harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Although it may appear as if it’s a single clear layer, it isn’t. Instead, it consists of several layers, including:
Each layer has a specific function. The epithelium, for example, is responsible for regenerating and repairing itself, ensuring your cornea remains smooth and clear. The corneal stroma is the thickest part of your cornea and it supplies cellular products 一 growth factors and other elements that your eye needs to maintain homeostasis 一 to support normal eye development.
As important as all of these layers are, they are rather tiny. The cornea is so thin, it’s measured in microns (represented as µm) and one micron is equal to one millionth of a meter. Together, the layers of the cornea are only about 540-560 µm thick.
When you think about vision, you might think about your retina, and while your retina is essential for vision, so is your cornea. It’s not just a protective covering. It acts as your eye's primary focusing lens, responsible for refracting and bending light as it enters the eye.
Interestingly, about two-thirds of the eye's focusing power comes from your cornea. It works in conjunction with the lens to focus incoming light onto your retina. The curvature and clarity of your cornea directly impact your visual acuity. Unfortunately, any irregularities in any parts of your eye can lead to refractive errors such as:
The bottom line: you need your cornea to see clearly.
Unlike many other tissues in the body, your cornea doesn’t actually have a direct blood supply. Instead, it receives oxygen and nutrients from tears, aqueous humor (the fluid inside the eye), and the surrounding blood vessels of the limbus (the border between the cornea and the sclera, the white part of the eye).
There’s a very good reason why your cornea doesn’t have its own blood supply: this lack of blood vessels contributes to the cornea's transparency, as blood vessels would interfere with the passage of light through the tissue. Instead, the cornea relies on a complex system of oxygen diffusion and nutrient exchange to maintain its health and clarity.
Understanding the significance of the cornea allows you to appreciate its vital role in your vision and overall eye health. From its transparent composition to its ability to focus light, the cornea is a remarkable part of your visual system. So, the next time you gaze upon the world around you, take a moment to appreciate the incredible work done by your corneas in enabling you to see and experience the beauty of the world.
If you have concerns about the health of your cornea 一 conditions like keratoconus and Fuchs’ dystrophy can impact the health of your cornea 一 don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our expert team is skilled in diagnosing and treating a variety of cornea conditions.
To schedule an appointment, call our Brooklyn office at 718-680-1500, or simply click here to get started.