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Clinical Services at Rush Cornea and External Diseases

The Department of Ophthalmology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, provides consulting and state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment services for all conditions affecting the eye.

Part of our team specializes in the cornea and external diseases of the eye. This field of specialization encompasses disorders of the cornea, eyelids, conjunctiva, anterior chamber and lens. This includes allergies, metabolic disorders, infections such as conjunctivitis (“pinkeye”) corneal ulcers, contact lens-related problems, dry eye, corneal degeneration (like pterygium and keratoconus), corneal dystrophies as well as other conditions.

Some Common Conditions:

Use the following links for a brief description of these conditions:

Services Provided

Our clinical team of eye specialists offers a number of state-of-the-art services, including:

  • Comprehensive examination
  • Cataract surgery
  • Excimer laser treatments
    such as LASIK (laser in-situ keratomileusis),  PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) and LASEK (laser epithelial keratomileusis)
  • Incisional treatments
    such as AK (astigmatic keratotomy) and LRI (limbal relaxing incisions)
  • Radiowave treatments
    such as CK (conductive keratoplasty) and LTK (laser thermal keratoplasty) surgery
  • Additive treatments
    such as INTACS (intrastromal rings)
  • Implants
    such as bifocal implants, corneal implants, phakic IOL (intraocular lens), Verisyse and ICL (implantable contact lenses)

Clinical Team

Our doctors are all specialists in cornea, external disease and refractive procedures. Each doctor is board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology and well-recognized in his field for experience, academic excellence and outstanding patient care.

Members of the cornea faculty include:

Brief Health Information

The Cornea

The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped surface of the eye. It is the outermost layer of the eye and lies in front of the iris, the colored part of the eye. It is responsible for two-thirds of the focusing power of the eye and is the site of surgery used to correct near-sightedness (myopia) or farsightedness (hyperopia) in excimer laser procedures. Contact lenses rest on the cornea and need to be fitted to it properly to be worn successfully.

The cornea is clear and transparent while the sclera, the white part of the eye, is more opaque. Together they make up the outer coat or protective layer of the eye. As such, it is in contact with the environment; irritants and allergens can affect the cornea in diverse and serious ways.

The cornea is also the source of light entry into the eye. Both the cornea and the lens of the eye focus light rays on the retina so that objects are seen clearly. If the cornea is damaged, swollen or cloudy, corneal transplant may be necessary to improve vision. If the lens is cloudy, the condition is called a cataract. Cataract surgery may be used to improve vision.

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Common Refractive Errors

Myopia (or nearsightedness) affects about one-third of the population and is characterized by an eye which is too long or a cornea which is too steep. People with nearsightedness typically see near things well and have blurry vision at distance. Treatment for nearsightedness is often glasses or contact lenses and now newer laser procedures and additive corneal procedures are available as options.

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Hyperopia (farsightedness) affects about one-quarter of the population. The eye is too short or the cornea is too flat. Light rays would theoretically be focused behind the eye and therefore the image on the retina is out of focus. Typically young people with this condition have good distance vision because they can focus on things in the distance but they have blurry near vision. After the late 30’s or early 40’s, near vision gets even worse and patients with this condition need reading glasses. The other options for this are also glasses and contact lenses, LASIK surgery, LTK (laser thermal keratoplasty) surgery and CK (conductive keratoplasty).

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Astigmatism is irregularity on the cornea, often described as a football-shaped eye, and often accompanies myopia or hyperopia. The irregularity causes the light to be focused at two different points, rather than one point. Patients with astigmatism have blurred distance vision and near vision based on the amount of astigmatism. Astigmatism is generally treated with glasses, contact lens or excimer laser procedures.

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Presbyopia is the Greek word for old eye (presbys=old, opia=eye). In Greek times the average life expectancy was about 40 years of age. If you lived long enough to have trouble seeing up close you were an old person. Presbyopia is the condition of decreasing near vision as one gets older. Onset is usually 42 to 45 years of age where people have more and more trouble seeing things up close, hold them further out and then increase the light so they can have better contrast. This is a normal aging condition in the eye. It’s due to a loss of flexibility in the lens. Treatment for this is usually reading glasses. There are newer treatments for it such as mono-vision with the excimer laser or the CK (conductive keratoplasty) procedure.

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Correction of Refractive Errors

This is a new and exciting area with many major recent advances. Glasses and contact lenses are increasingly being replaced by other modalities such as excimer laser treatments (LASIK, PRK, LASEK), incisional treatments (AK, or astigmatic keratotomy, and LRI, or limbal relaxing incisions), radiowave treatments (CK, or conductive keratoplasty), additive treatments (INTACS, or intrastromal rings), and implants (phakic IOL, or phakic intraocular lens; Verisyse; and ICL, or implantable contact lenses).

Our staff is experienced in all of these modalities. A comprehensive eye exam using modern imaging techniques is essential to evaluate your particular needs and options.

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Cataracts are a major cause of decreased vision as people get older. Regular eye exams are the best way to detect this cloudiness of the human lens. Treatment usually begins with a change in your prescription and then later, when this no longer suffices, surgical removal of the cataract through small incision “sutureless” phacoemulsification technique is often recommended. Since the lens of the eye helps focus light on the retina, it is usually replaced with a man-made intraocular lens, at the time of surgery, to aid your eye in regaining more normal vision. Ask us about the newest way to correct your cataract using a bifocal implant that restores both distance and near vision.

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Conjunctivitis (“pinkeye”)

Conjunctivitis is a very common condition with many different causes. Infections of the conjunctiva can be from bacteria, viruses or fungi. Bacterial infections are common in contact lens patients, children, and patients with dry eye. They are usually characterized by mucopurulent discharge and a moderate amount of redness and discomfort. This infections are treated with antibacterial eyedrops and/or ointments.

Viral infections are even more common and are often seasonal in children. These infections are highly contagious.

Fungal infections are much more common in the south and less common in the Chicago area with the colder climate.

As a large academic medical center we are often referred complex patients for evaluation and treatment. In all cases of conjunctivitis it is important to treat with frequent hand washing and separation of personal laundry items such as pillow cases and hand towels from other people in the household. It is also important to avoid irritants such as smoke, eye makeup and dust.

Allergic conjunctivitis is also common but it is not infectious. It is characterized by itching and watery discharge and is frequently seasonal. Major therapeutic advances have been made in the treatment of these conditions in recent years.

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Corneal Dystrophies

These are a group of bilateral, inherited, usually progressive disorders characterized by alteration of the cornea or its components, resulting in either decreased vision, discomfort or corneal opacities. Any of the five layers of the cornea can be involved. Corneal dystrophies which involve the surface of the eye, such as Epithelial Basement Membrane Dystrophy, usually present with recurrent foreign body sensation and irritation. Dystrophies that involve the posterior surface of the cornea, such as Fuchs’ Endothelial Dystrophy, may present with blurred vision due to a swollen, thickened cornea. While all corneal dystrophies are generally inherited genetically, the degree to which each family member is affected varies greatly.

Over the years, the Rush corneal specialists have taken part in clinical studies on various corneal dystrophies such as Fuchs’ dystrophy and are very knowledgeable in these conditions. All dystrophies are treated medically initially with lubrication, sometimes with hypertonic over-the-counter solutions and others need either laser treatment or corneal transplants, depending on their severity and the patient’s symptoms.

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Corneal Degenerations

These are changes in the structure or function of the cornea over time that blur vision and result in irritation and redness. Some cause problems, some do not. Pinguecula and pterygium are common degenerations caused by chronic exposure to sunlight. These conditions are benign but they can result in redness and chronic irritation in the eye and often patients with these seek attention for cosmetic reasons.

The doctors at Rush have pioneered in specialized treatment of various diseases of the cornea and anterior segment. For instance, they were among the first to use medication such as Mitomycin-C to prevent corneal scarring and haze after PRK and RK procedures. They continue research in these and other applications of these techniques to improve patient vision and satisfaction after eye surgery.

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Corneal Ulcers

Corneal ulcers, like conjunctivitis, can be bacterial, viral or fungal. Infections of the cornea are a much more serious condition and need prompt expert evaluation and treatment. Corneal ulcers usually follow an injury to the cornea and are characterized by considerable pain, redness and light sensitivity. They may heal slowly and with scarring or reduced vision and are usually treated with powerful antibiotic drops applied to the eye very frequently. Soft contact lenses may also cause corneal ulcers if the lenses are not cleaned properly, or if the lenses are worn overnight.

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Corneal Transplants

This procedure involves the replacement of the central diseased or scarred cornea with a clear transplant from a donor eye. The procedure takes about 30-60 minutes and can be combined with other surgery such as cataract removal if necessary. Newer and less invasive techniques of corneal transplantation are being studied at Rush University Medical Center and throughout the country.

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Dry Eye

Dry eye is one of the most common causes of eye discomfort. Symptoms include foreign body sensation, grittiness, excessive watering of the eyes and decreased visual acuity. “Dry eye syndrome” represents a spectrum of diseases with various causes and treatments.

Tears are composed of an anterior oily layer, a central water layer and an inner mucin layer; a deficiency in any one or more of these components can cause symptoms.

Some dry eye conditions are associated with an auto-immune state such as arthritis. Over-the-counter lubricant drops, prescription anti-inflammatory medications, and punctual plugs (small silicone plugs used to temporarily close the tear duct opening on the eyelid) have all been used in the treatment of dry eye. Environmental factors (such as the dry, cold air of winter) may also play a significant role in the development of dry eye symptoms.

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Contact Name
Contact Phone
(888) 352-7874
Contact E-mail

LocationHours of Operation
Rush Professional Office Building
1725 W. Harrison St., Suite 906
Chicago, IL 60612

Appointments with ophthalmologists at Rush are available during normal business hours, Monday through Friday. To request an appointment, call (312) 942-5315.

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