Recurrent Corneal Erosion (RCE): Causes and Treatment Options

Recurrent Corneal Erosion (RCE): Causes and Treatment Options

Have you ever woken up with extreme eye pain, where it felt like you scratched your eye? Did the pain gradually subside as the day went on? If so, you may have had a recurrent corneal erosion (or RCE).

In this video, Dr. Jaclyn Garlich reviews the main causes, risk factors, and treatment options for a recurrent corneal erosion.

If you don’t like the video or want more information, continue reading.

What is a recurrent corneal erosion?

A recurrent corneal erosion is a common eye condition that involves damage to the cornea. Unfortunately, the most common symptom of an RCE is intense eye pain upon waking (ouch). Other symptoms include light sensitivity, irritation, and watering.

Recurrent corneal erosion and the cornea

Let’s get into the basics as to why an RCE causes eye pain.

The cornea is the clear dome that overlies the colored part of the eye. It has five layers and there are a lot of nerve endings on the cornea. All of these nerve endings are the reason your eye will become sore or tender when there is irritation on the cornea. It’s kind of like when you get an eyelash in your eye but it feels like there is a rock in there!

An RCE happens when the top layer of the cornea doesn’t adhere well to the second layer of the cornea. If your cornea dries out at night, when you open your eye in the morning, your eyelid can essentially rip the top layer away from the second layer.

As you might imagine, this is very painful!

Who is most likely to get a recurrent corneal erosion?

Unfortunately, some people are predisposed to having RCE’s based on their corneal anatomy. On the other hand, others end up getting them if they have a history of injury to the eye, like a scratched cornea.

A few other conditions that put you at risk of an RCE are corneal dystrophies, diabetes, and dry eye disease.

RELATED: Corneal Abrasion: What Is It and Why Does It Hurt So Bad?

How to treat a recurrent corneal erosion

As spelled out in the name, unfortunately, this condition reoccurs. It’s a chronic disease and is frustrating to manage. Below you’ll read about a few simple and advance treatment options available.

Simple treatments

If you have been diagnosed with an RCE, your eye doctor will likely recommend thick artificial tears, like a gel or ointment to use right before bed.

Another over-the-counter drop commonly recommended is called Muro 128. This drop acts like a salt solution and is used to try and tighten the corneal layers together.

Advanced treatments

However, if these drops do not help your symptoms there are a few other treatment options your eye doctor can recommend. For example, stromal micropuncture or amniotic membranes are both advanced options.

With the help of your eye doctor, you can determine if either of these measures are right for you.


If you’ve had a recurrent corneal erosion, it’s a great idea to have your eyes checked regularly to treat any underlying dryness that may exacerbate this condition. Talk to your eye care provider to discuss the best treatment options for you.

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  1. After years of suffering from corneal erosions, I found that taking 2 – 1000mg capsules of omega 7 at bedtime prevented any further erosions. I had tried laser therapy, ointments, prokera, wearing a bandage contact and everything else. It helps to keep your corneas moist, especially when you are sleeping.