Corneal Edema

Corneal edema can result from a number of issues, all of which cause swelling due to excess fluid buildup in the cornea. As this progresses, the cornea thickens and vision becomes distorted, often with glare and light sensitivity. In addition, the condition can cause pain due to the cornea becoming abnormally thick and blisters forming on the surface of the eye.

Those who suffer from corneal edema may notice their decreased vision is worst in the morning and gradually improves throughout the day. This is because the eyes are open during the day, which allows the corneal fluid to evaporate. At night, the eyes are closed, which limits airflow to help evaporate excess fluid that the damaged endothelial cells cannot remove.

Corneal edema can be a temporary problem or gradually progress as a chronic condition. Treatment for corneal edema will ultimately depend on what caused the fluid to build up. This diagnosis can help our ophthalmologists manage the swelling most effectively.


When fluid within the cornea cannot adequately drain or evaporate, excess accumulates, leading to corneal thickening, swelling, and discomfort. Corneal edema may result from any of the following factors:

  • Increased eye pressure
  • Cataract surgery
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Trauma

Permanent corneal edema can develop when a person suffers from an underlying condition like bullous keratopathy or Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy.

Treating Corneal Edema

To find the best possible solution to a patient’s corneal edema, our surgeons must first determine the cause. Based on this finding, they may recommend the use of medicated eye drops to help alleviate the symptoms. These specially formulated eye drops are intended to reduce the fluid in the cornea and help with swelling. Should eye drops not be a sufficient form of controlling corneal edema, surgery may become necessary.

Surgical treatment for corneal edema at Eye Doctors of Washington typically includes either a corneal transplant or an amniotic membrane graft. Both methods are designed to replace the dysfunctioning cornea and improve the balance of fluid production and drainage for healthier eyes and improved vision.

To learn more about treating corneal edema for long-term relief, please contact us to schedule an appointment.

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