Cornea Abrasions- a painful and sometimes recurrent problem

Have you ever fallen down and scraped your knee or elbow? I was an active kid who spent most days after school climbing trees and riding my bicycle around the neighborhood, and came home with abrasions on my knees many many times. Remember how painful they were?

Imagine the skin of the eye getting an abrasion like your knee. This can happen from relatively trivial trauma, like a scratch from your fingernail or being brushed by a tree branch. The cornea is the surface layer of the eye and it has a skin layer similar to the skin on our bodies, but has 5 times the number of pain receptors per square mm compared to the skin on your body. For that reason, cornea abrasions are exquisitely painful.

See the faint triangle shape on the cornea surface? That’s the outline of a cornea abrasion
The same abrasion seen under higher power magnification

Fortunately, the abraded cells grow over very quickly with appropriate treatment, and the patient feels relief of the pain within days. However, the problem doesn’t always end there.

Unlike the skin on your body, which heals completely relatively quickly, the skin on your cornea takes a long time to heal completely. New cells grow over to cover the abrasion in a matter of days, but these cells are immature and don’t stick well to each other. It takes a period of months to years for these cells to mature and stick firmly to each other. In the meantime, patients are at risk for recurrent cornea erosions.

When the cells are immature, minor trauma can cause the sheet of cells to detach from the cornea, and the patient sustains a cornea abrasion all over again. Sometimes the trauma is nothing more than the patient opening his eyes in the morning- the movement of the eyelid over the immature sheet of cornea cells is enough to cause the abrasion to happen!

Although it is a painful and troublesome condition, recurrent cornea erosions can be treated. Patients will require plenty of eyedrops and ointments to lubricate the eye, especially at night, and usually for many months to years. If the condition recurs over and over again, additional treatment such as specially fitted contact lenses or laser treatment can be considered.


New Year Resolutions that will make your Eyes happy

Happy New Year! It is the time of the year to take stock of our lives and perhaps make little changes that might be good for ourselves. Here are a few little changes you can make to make your Eyes happier this new year.

  1. Take concrete measures to reduce your screen time! This year I have decided to shift my phone charger from the bedside table to the opposite corner of my bedroom, so that I will not use my phone in bed. Smart phones emit blue light, which recent studies suggest may cause retina damage and contribute to the formation of age related macular degeneration.

    Less screen time=more time for what’s important in life
  2. Spend more time with your kids outdoors. Time spent outdoors has been shown to help prevent the onset of myopia in children. I have 2 young ones myself, and I bought them pool floats for Christmas last year, to encourage them to spend less time in front of the TV and more time goofing off in the pool.

    Goofing off in the pool!
  3. Eat more fish. Deep sea fish such as salmon and tuna contain omega-3 fatty acids, which has a host of Eye benefits. Omega-3 fatty acid consumption can improve the symptoms of dry eyes, and may also help prevent age related macular degeneration. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acid include flaxseed, walnuts and deep green leafy vegetables. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need much persuasion to eat more sashimi!

    This was dinner a few nights back- quick, delicious and so good for you!

Have a great year! Be good to yourself, and be good to your Eyes too.