What is the Cornea?

The cornea is the clear, outer surface of your eye. Your cornea shape will determine if you have nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. Likewise, the health of your cornea will directly affect how well you see. All light that passes into your eye must first go through the cornea, so any damage to this surface will negatively affect your vision. Damage can occur from injury, disease, infection or previous eye surgery.

Corneal Conditions

Many different types of corneal conditions can affect your vision. In addition to corneal scars and infections that can damage the corneal tissue, you may develop:

  • Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy
  • Pterygium
  • Thyroid Eye Disease
  • Keratoconus

Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy

Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy is a genetic disease where the innermost layer of the cornea (endothelium) deteriorates, causing tiny bumps to form on the back of the cornea. This leads to swelling (corneal edema) and blurry/cloudy vision – especially blurry vision in the morning. You can also experience eye pain, light sensitivity, halos and the feeling of something in your eye. Our fellowship trained cornea specialists treat this condition using advanced partial thickness corneal transplant techniques such as DSEK, DMEK and DWEK (see below for more information on treatments).


Also called surfer’s eye, pterygium is a raised, pink/white, triangle-shaped growth that often appears on the side of the cornea near the nose. Excessive exposure to UV light is one risk factor for developing a pterygium which is why it’s called surfer’s eye. It can also be caused by outdoor irritants (wind, dust, etc.), dry climates, dry eye and by not wearing sunglasses when outdoors. While typically benign, this growth can make your eye irritated, red, itchy or burning and lead to blurry vision. It tends to affect people from age 20-40 and it can be treated if it is causing you physical or emotional discomfort.

Thyroid Eye Disease

Thyroid Eye Disease (TED) is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks the normal tissue behind the eyes. This causes the muscles and fat tissue in your eye sockets to become inflamed and swell. Symptoms include redness, dryness, bulging eyes, double vision, watering and itchiness. This is a lifelong condition that can range from mild to severe. Left untreated, scar tissue can develop causing permanent eye damage.


Keratoconus is an eye disease in which the corneal tissue starts to thin which prevents the tissue from holding a proper shape. This causes the tissue to bulge into a cone shape. This leads to distorted vision, light sensitivity, glare, ghosting and irritation. Keratoconus often affects younger people in their late teenage years or early 20s, but it can progress over one’s lifetime. This disease can make it increasingly difficult to read, watch TV, drive, work on a computer and doother everyday tasks.

Cornea Treatments in Knoxville

Many of our cornea procedures are performed at the Eye Surgery Center of East Tennessee, located inside our main office on Weisgarber Road in Knoxville. This is our ambulatory surgical facility dedicated to total eye care.

Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy Treatments in Knoxville

Descemet’s Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK) and Descemet’s Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK) are partial-thickness corneal transplant options that involve removing the damaged or diseased layer of the cornea and replacing it with donor tissue. These procedures are highly effective and have a reduced risk of rejection as compared to a full corneal transplant.

We are also proud to offer Descemetorrhexis Without Endothelial Keratoplasty (DWEK), a non-transplant option that involves the removal of the diseased tissue, leaving the remaining Decemet’s membrane intact. This process does not require a patient to lay flat after surgery. 

Pterygium Treatment in Knoxville

Medicated or lubricating eye drops can help ease irritation caused by pterygium. If the lesion begins to threaten your sight or makes you feel self-conscious, pterygium surgery to remove the growth may be recommended. Using conjunctival autograft surgery, our doctors use tissue from another part of the eye to cover the area from which the pterygium was removed. 

Thyroid Eye Disease Treatment in Knoxville

This condition can be treated by steroid medications, lubricating drops and ointments or surgery. We offer TEPEZZA®, a prescription medication that treats the cause of TED and improves the symptoms of this condition. Different types of surgery may also be recommended, depending on your unique situation. Our specialists may recommend orbital decompression surgery to reduce bulging eyes, strabismus surgery to help the eyes realign or eyelid surgery to repair eyelids that have retracted. Unfortunately, TED may return even after treatment. When symptoms return or get worse, this is called a flare.

Keratoconus Treatment in Knoxville 

One of the first treatment protocols for keratoconus is to try scleral contact lenses. These are larger than conventional lenses so they rest on the white part of your eye (sclera). These lenses vault over the eye to help improve vision that has become distorted by this disease. If scleral lenses are not successful, our team will discuss other options such as corneal collagen cross-linking or corneal transplants. 

Why Choose Us?

Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor & Haun have been serving the East Tennessee community with cornea care since 1952. Thousands of patients in our area have received sight-saving treatments from our fellowship-trained cornea specialists. It’s what motivates us to keep learning about new techniques, honing our skills and using our knowledge to help others.

We understand that having vision problems is scary. Our entire team spends time with each patient to explain what’s happening inside your eyes, what treatments are available and what to expect with each one. It’s common to feel overwhelmed, so we will do everything we can to set your mind at ease and help you feel comfortable with our recommendations. You’ll receive premium treatment every step of the way. If you need cornea care, we’re simply the best choice in East Tennessee.

Our Cornea Specialists in Knoxville

Our fellowship-trained cornea specialists in Knoxville are specialists in their field of expertise. They are fully ingrained in the East Tennessee community and are committed to bringing modern, premium eye care to our area. Cornea care is an ongoing process, so you’ll form a strong bond with your doctor. We cherish these relationships!

  • Jake C. McMillin, M.D.
  • Eric Sollenberger, M.D.

“I wanted to give a shout-out to the Maryville office, who made accommodations to squeeze me in after being in a lot of pain since yesterday due to what turned out to be a large cut on my eye. They were all very kind and polite and super great to get me in so quickly. The doctor was very thorough and explained everything to me in detail. All of the staff that I encountered were friendly. I really appreciate them!!”
Angel B.