What Is the Cornea?

The cornea is the eye’s clear, dome-shaped, protective outer layer, which has a primary purpose of focusing light into the eye so you can see clearly. It also serves as a barrier between dirt, germs, and other potentially harmful elements.

Our corneas are sensitive and thus susceptible to a myriad of issues which can be tied to discomfort, pain, and impaired eyesight.


Keratoconus causes blurred vision and may cause sensitivity to light and glare. Blurred/distorted vision, clouded vision, increased sensitivity to light and glare (I.e. issues with night driving), and frequent changes in eyeglass prescriptions are all indicators that you may be suffering from keratoconus. The gold-standard treatment for advanced keratoconus is corneal cross-linking.

Corneal Cross–linking

This minimally invasive outpatient procedure utilizes eyedrop medication in tandem with ultraviolet light to create new collagen bridges and stabilize the cornea.

Keratoplasty (Corneal transplant)

This surgery aims to remove all or part of a damaged cornea and replace it with healthy donor tissue, resulting in relief from pain and improved eyesight.

Superficial Keratectomy

This is a minor surgical procedure to remove the corneal epithelium, which will effectively improve eyesight and reduce corneal astigmatism.

Amniotic Membrane Grafts

Healthy stromal tissue, the connective tissue found in the corneas, is essential to the eye’s functionality. When stromal tissue is damaged, an amniotic membrane graft may be used to heal wounds. The procedure utilizes amniotic fluids from donated human placenta as a replacement for damaged stromal tissue on the surface of the eye.

Pterygium Removal

A pterygium is a painless and noncancerous growth, most common in people who have prolonged sun exposure. Pterygium removal is a simple surgery during which the lesion is removed from the eye and a small piece of skin is removed from the upper part of the eye and placed where the pterygium lesion was.

Kelley Hawkins, M.D.

Dr. Hawkins, is a comprehensive ophthalmologist who specializes in the cornea, cataract surgery, refractive surgery, and external disease of the eye. Dr. Hawkins graduated magna cum laude from Pacific Union College with a degree in chemistry. She then went on to receive her medical doctorate from Loma Linda University, where she also stayed for her ophthalmology residency. Dr. Hawkins helped to create the cornea fellowship program at the Loma Linda University Eye Institute and graduated as its first fellow. Dr. Hawkins is very familiar with medical and scientific innovation. She performs state of the art cataract surgery as well as advanced techniques for full and partial cornea transplantation. Dr. Hawkins lives to carry on the ideals of her training at Loma Linda, focusing on whole person care. She aims to provide healthcare with compassion, integrity, and excellence. Dr. Hawkins’ hobbies and interests include CrossFit, snowboarding, surfing, camping, and scuba diving. She also has a heart for the mission fields and has been on numerous overseas trips to give medical care to the underserved.