Recurrent Corneal Erosion

Recurrent Corneal Erosion is a condition in which the cornea (the window shield of the eye) recurrently (again and again) erodes (has the surface tissue break free). In this disorder, a person typically wakes from sleep with their eye hurting severely and tearing. The pain feels as if there is something in the eye; a foreign body sensation that is sharp and stabbing. The discharge from the eye is clear and thin, like water. The person can often cannot recall any injury to the eye within the prior 24 hours.

The two most common causes of Recurrent Corneal Erosion are:

  1. a history of a sharp cutting injury to the cornea, such as from a fingernail or a twig, and
  2. a history of a Corneal Epithelial Dystrophy, an inherited disorder of the outermost, epithelial, layer of the cornea and/or its basement membrane.

In both these conditions, the corneas surface epithelial cells can erode when the eye gets dry (for example, from wind, a ceiling fan, sleeping, long hours at the computer or reading). There is a resultant thickening of the epithelial cells basement membrane where the injury or corneal dystrophy is located.

Recurrent Corneal Erosion may be present intermittently, off and on, for 30 or more years. The initial treatment involves the frequent use of hypertonic (high salt content) ophthalmic (safe for the eyes) drops and ointments for at least 3 consecutive months. Sometimes a pressure patch over the eye is needed for a period of time. A resilient case might justify the use of a bandage contact lens with the hypertonic ophthalmic drops. In a rare case, the abnormally thickened basement membrane is treated with excimer laser or re-injured with a bent needle tip, and then cared for in a way to try to promote normal healing.