What is a Recurrent Corneal Erosion and How is it Treated?

by Aug 1, 2022

A recurrent corneal erosion is a painful eye condition which can cause red painful eyes in the morning that is worse than the rest of the day.  A recurrent corneal erosion is a repeated area of damage on the front of the eye.


Anatomy of the Cornea

The cornea is the clear front part of the eye which is responsible for bending light into the eye.

The cornea is one of the most sensitive parts of the eye and the body as it has many nerves within the layers of the cornea.

The front or top layer of the cornea is the corneal epithelium. This layer acts as the “skin” of the cornea to protect the underlying layers and the nerves within those layers.

If the corneal epithelium is damaged or removed, there will be intense pain and a risk of an infection much like a scratch or cut.


Corneal Epithelium Damage

When the corneal epithelium is damaged, either from a scratch or from a disease, the entire cornea is exposed to the environment.

Typically, the corneal epithelium will be resistant to light trauma but may be impacted by stronger trauma such as a scratch by a fingernail.

If the corneal epithelium is removed, the underlying layers are exposed which can lead to a bacterial infection.

If the corneal epithelium is unable to heal properly and is frequently damaged, there may be a recurrent corneal erosion.


Recurrent Corneal Erosion

A recurrent corneal erosion is a large area of the corneal epithelium which is damaged and unable to heal properly.

This causes pain and risks an infection without treatment.

During sleep, the damaged corneal epithelium will attempt to heal but when the eyes are opened, the wound will be opened again.

Since each morning the corneal epithelium is being damaged, the pain and redness will be the worst in the morning or upon waking.


Causes of Recurrent Corneal Erosions

There are two main causes of recurrent corneal erosions. If the eye has had previous trauma to the area, such as a corneal abrasion, the eye may later develop recurrent corneal erosions – up to years after the first incident.

Another possible cause of recurrent corneal erosions is an underlying dystrophy of the cornea.

Conditions such as epithelial basement membrane dystrophy (EBMD) can weaken the corneal epithelium and lead to recurrent corneal erosions.

If there has not been any previous trauma recorded, it is important to have a thorough eye exam to rule out any corneal dystrophy.


Treating a Recurrent Corneal Erosion

A recurrent corneal erosion needs to be treated by an eye doctor as quickly as possible.

It is likely that some of the corneal epithelium will need to be removed from the area to allow a better healing process.

After cleaning the area, a doctor may place an amniotic membrane which is a small piece of biologic tissue in the form of a contact lens to assist with healing.

Additionally, a bandage contact lens can be placed in the eye to protect the healing cornea from being damaged with blinks or waking.

While a recurrent corneal erosion is not associated with an infection, since the cornea is damaged and exposed, an antibiotic eye drop will be used to prevent a secondary infection.

Once the cornea is healed, there may be no other treatments needed or there are eye drops which can be used prophylactically to prevent future corneal erosions.


Our eye doctors at Neal Eye Group in Conshohocken, PA excel in the prescription of contact lenses, glasses and various eye diseases.  Call our optometrists at (610) 828-9701 or schedule an appointment online if you would like to learn more about a recurrent corneal erosion.  Our optometrists provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Conshohocken, Norristown, Plymouth Meeting, Lafayette Hill, and Philadelphia.

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