Physiological studies strongly support the view that hydration control in the cornea is dependent on active ion transport at the corneal endothelium. However, the mechanism by which endothelial ion transport regulates corneal thickness has not been elaborated in detail. In this study, the corneal stroma is modeled as a triphasic material under steady-state conditions. An ion flux boundary condition is developed to represent active transport at the endothelium. The equations are solved in cylindrical coordinates for confined compression and in spherical coordinates to represent an intact cornea. The model provides a mechanism by which active ion transport at the endothelium regulates corneal hydration and provides a basis for explaining the origin of the “imbibition pressure” and stromal “swelling pressure.” The model encapsulates the Donnan view of corneal swelling as well as the “pump-leak hypothesis.”

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