My eye hurts in the morning: Dealing with Recurrent Corneal Erosion

Waking up with a sharp pain in your eye can be a disconcerting experience. If you’ve ever wondered why your eye hurts in the morning, recurrent corneal erosion might be the culprit. In this article, we will delve into the causes, symptoms, and effective ways to manage and prevent this uncomfortable condition.

Eye pain in the morning caused by recurrent corneal erosion sydndrome.
Eye pain on waking due to recurrent corneal erosion syndrome.

Understanding Recurrent Corneal Erosion (RCE)

Recurrent Corneal Erosion (RCE) is a condition characterized by the repetitive breakdown of the outermost layer of the cornea, known as the epithelium. This layer acts as a protective shield for the cornea, and when it becomes compromised, it can lead to significant discomfort.

What Causes RCE?

Several factors contribute to the development of RCE:

  • Corneal Trauma: One of the primary causes of RCE is a previous injury to the cornea, which may not have fully healed. Even minor traumas, such as rubbing your eyes vigorously, can trigger RCE.
  • Underlying Conditions: Certain underlying conditions, like dry eye syndrome and corneal dystrophies, can make individuals more susceptible to RCE.

Recognizing the Symptoms

The symptoms of RCE can vary in intensity, but they commonly include:

  • Eye Pain: Sharp, stabbing pain, particularly upon waking up in the morning, is a hallmark symptom of RCE.
  • Blurred Vision: RCE can cause temporary vision disturbances, making it difficult to see clearly.
  • Excessive Tearing: Your eye may produce more tears than usual as a protective response to the irritation.
  • Light Sensitivity: Increased sensitivity to light, known as photophobia, is another common symptom.

Managing Recurrent Corneal Erosion

If you suspect you have RCE, it’s essential to consult an eye specialist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Here are some strategies commonly used to manage RCE:

  • Topical Medications: Your doctor may prescribe lubricating eye drops, ointments, or antibiotics to promote healing and reduce symptoms.
  • Bandage Contact Lenses: In severe cases, a bandage contact lens may be used to protect the cornea and facilitate healing.
  • Eyelid Hygiene: Keeping your eyelids clean and free from debris can prevent further irritation and erosion.
  • Moisture Management: If dry eye syndrome is contributing to RCE, managing this condition with artificial tears or other treatments can be beneficial.
  • Avoiding Eye Rubbing: To prevent further trauma, avoid rubbing your eyes and handle them gently.
Recurrent corneal erosion syndrome with Dr Anthony Maloof looking under a microscope.
Dr Anthony Maloof looking at an eye scrape under the microscope. Have your eyes checked early!

Preventing Recurrent Corneal Erosion

Preventing RCE is essential once you’ve experienced it. Here are some steps to minimize the risk of recurrence:

  • Use a Humidifier: Adding moisture to the air in your home can help combat dry eye syndrome, reducing the risk of RCE.
  • Protective Eyewear: If you’re involved in activities that could lead to eye injury, such as sports or construction work, wear protective eyewear.
  • Regular Eye Check-ups: Visit your local optometrist for regular check-ups to monitor the health of your corneas.

Dealing with recurrent corneal erosion can be painful and frustrating, but with proper management and preventive measures, you can minimize its impact on your life. If you wake up with eye pain or experience any of the symptoms mentioned, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Remember, early intervention is key to preserving your eye health.

Dr Anthony Maloof is a Corneal and Oculoplastic Surgeon based in Sydney. Treatment is available and can be life changing for those that suffer.

To request an appointment click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can RCE lead to permanent vision loss?

RCE is typically treatable and doesn’t usually result in permanent vision loss if managed promptly and effectively.

2. Are there any home remedies for RCE?

While lubricating eye drops may provide temporary relief, it’s crucial to consult an eye specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

3. Can RCE affect both eyes?

Yes, RCE can occur in one or both eyes, but it often affects one eye more severely than the other.

4. Is RCE more common in certain age groups?

RCE can affect people of all ages, but it tends to be more prevalent in individuals over 40.

5. Can I wear contact lenses if I have RCE?

In most cases, your eye specialist will advise against wearing contact lenses during RCE treatment to prevent further irritation and injury to the cornea.

Incorporating these strategies into your daily routine can significantly reduce the recurrence of RCE and help you wake up without the discomfort of an achy eye in the morning.

We can help

If you suffer from a corneal issue and think we can help, then you can request an appointment online or call the clinic on 1300 393 322. We have 2 Sydney locations for consultation, Westmead and the city on Macquarie Street opposite the Eye Hospital.