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What are the risks of corneal transplant surgery?

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Quick Answer

Corneal transplant surgery carries a small risk of complications such as cataracts, glaucoma, issues with stitches, rejection of the new cornea, swelling of the cornea and eye infection, according to Mayo Clinic. A cornea transplant is a relatively safe surgery, and the majority of cases are successful.

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Full Answer

If the body's immune system mistakenly targets the new cornea, symptoms may include pain, redness, light sensitivity and loss of vision, as listed by Mayo Clinic. Approximately 20 percent of cornea transplant patients experience this condition, known as rejection. Risk of rejection continues for years after a completed transplant, and a doctor may prescribe medications to control the condition. The doctor should be contacted immediately if any signs of rejection appear.

A successful transplant may improve the appearance of a damaged cornea, reduce pain and improve vision, states Mayo Clinic. Vision may be worse than it was before the surgery for several months. A doctor can begin making adjustments when the outer layer of the cornea heals several weeks to several months after the surgery; this may include correcting unevenness on the cornea by tightening or loosening stitches and correcting refractive errors such as nearsightedness and farsightedness.

Before the surgery, a doctor completes a thorough eye exam, measures the eye to determine the size of the required donor cornea, reviews all medications the patient is taking and works to treat other eye problems, says Mayo Clinic. Most donor corneas come from deceased donors, and patients normally do not have to wait long to receive one.

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