The cornea is the eye’s outermost layer. It is the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye. It can be described as being like a window into the interior of the eye. The main function of the cornea is to allow light to pass into the eye, so that it can reach the lens and then the retina. For this reason, the cornea must be transparent. A second chief function is to help focus light, like a camera lens.

Health of the cornea depends on several factors, including the health of the conjunctiva and of the eyelids. The conjunctiva is the tissue which covers the front part of the eyeball (but not the cornea) and lines the back of the eyelids. Both the conjunctiva and the eyelids contain glands which make tear fluid. Tear fluid is an essential part of the systems which maintain the health of the cornea.

Diseases of the cornea can cause distorted vision or even loss of vision. Keeping the cornea healthy is a vital part in protecting your vision and the health of your eyes.

Understanding Keratoconus
Keratoconus is a relatively rare eye condition in which the regular round, dome-like cornea (the clear front part of the eye) becomes thin and develops a cone bulge. Keratoconus literally means cone-shaped cornea. The cornea is a very important part of your eye. As light enters the eye, it focuses the light rays so that you can see clearly.

With keratoconus, the shape of the cornea is altered, distorting your vision. Keratoconus can make some activities difficult, such as driving, typing on a computer, watching television or reading.

What are the symptoms of Keratoconus?

Keratoconus usually affects both eyes, however; symptoms in each eye may differ. Surprisingly, this is not an eye condition that affects the elderly. Symptoms usually start to occur in people who are in their late teens and early twenties and may include:

    • blurring of vision
    • distortion of vision
    • sensitivity to light
    • glare
    • slight irritation

What can I do about treating Keratoconus?

When keratoconus is initially diagnosed by our ophthalmologists, eyeglasses or soft contact lenses might be used to correct some nearsightedness and astigmatism. In most cases this eye disease actually gets worse over time and the doctors may prescribe hard contact lenses. Other forms of treatment include: Intacs corneal ring inlays or in severe cases an actual corneal transplant. New research is being done with a process called corneal cross linking and is currently under FDA Investigation.

Call (919) 967-4836 Ext. 115 or Email: for a keratoconus consultation today!

Dry Eye Syndrome

What is Dry Eye?

Dry Eye, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a condition that decreases the eye’s ability to produce tears. Tears help protect the surface of the eye and keep it moist and lubricated. Reduced tear production can lead to damage to the eye’s surface. If the problem is chronic and left untreated, it can lead to eye infection and permanent vision impairment.

What are the causes of Dry Eye?

Dry Eye is caused by a problem in the tear-making glands of the eye. This results in fewer tears. Your risk factors for this condition increase with age, certain medications, menopause, and autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, lupus and Sjögren’s syndrome or due to medical conditions such as diabetes or blocked tear ducts.

Can allergies and weather conditions cause Dry Eye?

Many environmental factors such as dust, allergens, smoke and dry air can aggravate Dry Eye. Other factors can include wearing contact lenses, reading for extended periods of time and computer use, but they are not the cause. The cause of Dry Eye is a dysfunction of the tear producing glands which results in reduced production of tears.

How do I know if I have Dry Eye?

Your eye doctor can check your eyes for clinical signs of Dry Eye. He will look for dryness and damage to the cornea or conjunctiva (the membrane that covers the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelids) and may measure tear production or break up time. It is also helpful if you describe your condition in detail. Be sure to tell us if you experience burning, itching, the feeling of having “something in your eye,” have difficulty reading for any length of time or have excessive tearing.

What treatments are available for Dry Eye?

In addition to over-the-counter artificial tears, the doctor may recommend a prescription eye drop, such as Restasis or have you tried vitamins that contain flaxseed and fish oil. Contact wearers may have to decrease time worn or stop wearing them all together. Another approach is to insert a temporary or permanent punctal plug into the tear duct to prevent the drainage of tears.

What do artificial tears do?

Over-the-counter artificial tears can provide quick but temporary symptom relief and help lubricate eyes. Worse, most generic or store name brands have preservatives that can aggravate the condition, and can even kill corneal cells making your dry eyes worse. Tears that promise to “get the red out” will reduce circulation in the eye, decrease production of the tear film, and eventually make your eyes even drier. It’s always best to make an appointment and ask your doctor before using any dry eye treatment on your own.

Call (919) 967-4836 Ext. 115 or Email: for a dry eye consultation today!


Pingueculae are relatively common non-malignant, raised yellow-white fleshy lesions that are typically found near the edge of the cornea.
UV-light exposure, wind, dust, outdoor lifestyle and proximity to the equator, age, male gender, smoking, working outdoors and diabetes mellitus may increase the likelihood of pingueculae forming.

What are the symptoms of Pingueculae?

Most pingueculae do not present many symptoms but may cause ocular surface irritation including foreign body sensation, tearing, burning or itching. Some patients may find these lesions cosmetically unpleasing.

What can I do about a Pinguecula?

Lubrication with artificial tears and ointment can help with ocular surface irritation. Surgical removal of a pinguecula may be considered if it becomes especially uncomfortable, if it interferes with contact lens wear or blinking, or if it is cosmetically bothersome.

Call (919) 967-4836 Ext. 115 or Email: for a pinguecula consultation today!


A pterygium presents as a triangular-shaped bump on the eyeball that starts on the white of the eye and can reach into the cornea.
Pterygium is also commonly called “surfer’s eye,” you don’t have to be a surfer to get a pterygium. UV radiation, proximity to the equator, dry climates, outdoor lifestyle. UV radiation from the sun, dry climates, or an outdoor lifestyle can increase the risks of pterygium.
Pterygia are non-cancerous growths, but they can permanently disfigure the eye. 

What are the symptoms of Pterygium?

Pterygia usually occur on the side of the eye closer to the nose, but they can also develop on the side nearest the ear as well and can affect one eye or both eyes.
Many people with mild Pterygium may not experience symptoms or require treatment. But large or growing pterygia often cause a gritty, itchy or burning sensation or the feeling something is in the eye. These pterygia can become inflamed and cause red eyes.

What can I do about Pterygium?

Pterygia can be treated with lubricants or prescription eye drops that can reduce swelling and redness. A topical cyclosporine may also be prescribed to counter the effects of dry eye. Pterygia should be monitored to prevent scarring that could lead to vision loss.

Call (919) 967-4836 Ext. 115 or Email: for a pterygium consultation today!

Enjoy Life! With better Vision

Stop struggling with your eyesight! Now is the time to schedule your cataract evaluation with Dr. Penke at Carolina Ophthalmology. Why not take our Self Evaluation Test to get started?

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