Artificial cornea for kids - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Artificial cornea for kids

HEALTHLINE (MEDSTAR) -- Vision is an amazing sense, and it all starts at the cornea, a virtual "window" to the eye. Without a clear cornea, light is obstructed and vision is lost. In the past, kids with damaged corneas had few options, but as Janet Vasil reports, there's hope in sight.

The way four-year-old Abby Riggins plays "tag" with her older brother, you'd never know she had an eye problem at birth.

"Her eyes were different. They were glossy blue, with nothing else to them," says Jannette Riggins.

Abby was born with congenital glaucoma, and the pressure in her eyes started to stretch her corneas.

"Over time the eyes became more cloudy, and had the central scarring right in the middle,"
says Elgin Riggins.

Abby's vision was gradually obstructed right at a critical time in her development.

"You are not born with a sense of sight. You are born with an apparatus that is not quite functional. It's becoming functional, but yet, you have to learn how to use it," says James Aquavella, M.D.

For adults, cornea transplants are an option, but a child's immune system rejects them within weeks. So doctor Aquavella implants artificial corneas in kids.

"It's only three millimeters in diameter. That's about the diameter of an eraser at the end of your pencil," says James Aquavella, M.D.

The implant has two parts - the most important, the clear optical piece that brings light and images into the eye.

sot: james aquavella, m.d.
"so that little plastic device that is 3, that is 3 millimeters in diameter has all the optics in it to accept light rays and project them in the back of the eye," says James Aquavella, M.D.

Once it's implanted, it's permanent, and the brain starts learning about sight.

"Within a matter of a couple of weeks, they're seeing as well as that eyeball is ever going to see," says James Aquavella, M.D.

And with on-going care from an eye specialist, kids like abby will continue to get close-up with the world. This is Janet Vasil reporting.

Online Reporter: Kelsi Schindler

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