How long does recurrent corneal erosion last?
Mr Tariq Ayoub - 22 Dec 2022
If you have recurrent corneal erosion (RCE), you might wonder how long it’s likely to last. In this blog, we cover how long it may take to heal, the process of corneal healing, and the prognosis of RCE. Oculase’s eye specialist, Mr Tariq Ayoub, is an expert in treating corneal conditions. Contact us today to learn how he can help you.
How long does RCE take to heal?
Corneal erosion may heal within 24 hours, a few days or up to a week. However, if you have RCE, you may experience frequent episodes over weeks, months or even years. During an episode, your corneal epithelial tissue loosens and sticks to the eyelids, which can cause severe pain.
You may have injured your eye a few weeks, months or even years before the initial erosion. We call this a trauma. Improperly healed trauma to the eye is the most common cause of this disorder. The first recurrent episode may occur a few weeks after the initial erosion.
How many times can I experience RCE?
The number of episodes you may experience can differ. Some people experience a few erosions a year, while others have episodes multiple times a week. You may find that your symptoms worsen at specific times of the year.
Our highly-trained ophthalmologist will inform you of your treatment options, such as lubricating eye drops, to prevent episodes and help the cornea heal. We explain this further in our blog: What are the treatment options for recurrent corneal erosion syndrome?
Many factors can affect how the cornea heals and whether it heals correctly or quickly. These include some conditions and lifestyle factors, such as diabetes and smoking. Corneal healing occurs over four stages, which may overlap: latent, migration, proliferation, and epithelial reattachment.
The latent or lag phase involves cell changes. During the latent phase, damaged epithelial cells undergo programmed cell death (apoptosis) and enter the tear film that covers your eye’s outer mucosal surfaces. This stage usually takes a few hours.
Migration refers to the moving of cells as they cover the affected area. The size and location of the corneal injury can influence how fast this happens. However, this is often between 24 and 36 hours.
Next is the proliferation stage. Once the cells have migrated, they multiply (proliferate), and the thin cell layer thickens to restore regular epithelial thickness. The cornea’s barrier function also repairs.
In the final stage, the epithelial cells re-adhere to the basement membrane (epithelial reattachment). This process should take a few days if the basement membrane received no damage. However, if the basement membrane is damaged, this can take several months or longer.
We understand that the extended healing time can be daunting and could cause you distress. Feel free to ask our ophthalmologist any questions about your condition and its recovery so we can help ease your worries.
As long as you follow the proper preventative measures, the prognosis with the right treatment is excellent. Our ophthalmologist will recommend the most suitable treatment method after a thorough assessment. He will also take the time to educate you on how to prevent RCE.
Alongside treatment, you’ll need to ensure that any underlying conditions, such as diabetes, are well managed. Your GP should be able to help you with this. Any condition contributing to ocular surface disease, such as dry eyes and blepharitis, must be adequately managed too.
After RCE resolves, some people still experience early-morning foreign body sensations occasionally. Continue to use lubricating ointment before bed for at least six months after your symptoms stop to prevent another recurrence.
Complications of RCE
Frequent episodes can lead to corneal scarring, but this is rare. Scarring can occur after a corneal infection. RCE increases the risk of corneal infection, though it can also be caused by it. Other possible complications include infectious keratitis and corneal haze. Corneal scarring and infectious keratitis can affect your vision, though this should improve with treatment.
Book an appointment
A diagnosis can make you feel stressed and eager to fix it with treatment. At Oculase, we know you need to fully understand your condition to make an informed decision about your care.
Mr Ayoub has completed a prestigious corneal fellowship, providing him with a wealth of knowledge on corneal conditions and their treatment options. We form a detailed treatment plan with you, considering your wants and needs every step of the way. Put your eye health first and book a consultation with our expert ophthalmologist.