How To Identify Symptoms For, Diagnose, And Treat Recurrent Corneal Erosion Syndrome

Regular eye checkup appointments are crucial in ensuring that minor problems are quickly identified. Adults between the age of 20 and 30 should get an eye exam every 2 years. One of the most common ocular conditions diagnosed is known as the recurrent corneal erosion syndrome (RCES). The statistics involving the frequency of which RCES occurs has not yet been verified due to the fact that RCES is quite often misdiagnosed. This article will dive into what RCES is, how to identify the symptoms, and how to diagnose and treat the syndrome.

What Is Recurrent Corneal Erosion Syndrome (RCES)?

This syndrome is known as a recurrent opening or breakdown of the cells in the corneal layer of the eye. These epithelial cells are attached to a layer underneath known as the Bowman's layer. The Bowman's layer functions like glue, and is responsible for adhering the epithelial cells to the eye.

A patient with recurrent corneal erosion syndrome will find that their Bowman's layer is not functioning properly. As a result, the epithelial cells of the cornea are more likely to peel off and heal improperly. Although epithelial cells in the cornea regenerate with time, patients suffering from recurrent corneal erosion syndrome will find that the epithelial cells will fall off from time to time creating an open sore that feels similar to having a scratch on the surface of the eye.

What Are Some Symptoms of RCES?

Do your eyes hurt? Symptoms of RCES are similar to having abrasions on your eye. You may have RCES if you have:

  • sharp pains in your eye.
  • a sandy, gritty feeling in your eye as if debris may be lodged inside.
  • a strong sensitivity to light.
  • been tearing up uncontrollably.
  • been experiencing redness in your eyes.
  • been experiencing blurred vision.
  • been uncontrollably blinking. This is also known as blepharospasm.

How Do You Diagnose RCES? 

Since RCES is similar in nature as getting a scratch to the eye, it is often misdiagnosed. You will need to consult with your eye doctor, like those discussed at, and receive a thorough examination in order to get a better idea of whether you are experiencing a mere scratch to the corneal surface of your eyes or RCES. To diagnose RCES, your eye doctor will:

  • look into your past medical history to determine whether there are any probable causes that could have potentially lead to the development of RCES.
  • measure your visual acuity. This measures the amount of detail that an individual can clearly see from 20 feet away.
  • perform a broad, angled slit beam examination. Your eye doctor can do this by instilling a yellow dye called fluorescein in your eyes. Small openings in the epithelial surface of the cornea will soak up the dye, and mark where the erosions are. These erosions are then visible when you shine a cobalt blue light in your eyes.

Diagnosing RCES can be difficult, and your eye doctor will need to take his or her own time examining your eyes in order to determine whether the epithelium may be loose or whether there are any granularities of the stroma present. It is important to keep in mind that even with a thorough assessment, eye doctors may still have difficulty identifying clinical signs of RCES, which is why RCES is often misdiagnosed.

What Are Some Treatments Available?

Although RCES remained one of the more difficult syndromes to treat for many years, eye doctors are able to take several different approaches nowadays to expedite the recovery process. Some common treatments will include:

  • applying topical agents. Different eyedrops and lubricating ointments are often prescribed for RCES. Patients prescribed topical agents need to stay consistent with the medications and ointments that they are using for at least 6 to 12 months after the last erosion.
  • patching and using bandage lenses. Bandage lenses are generally only prescribed for instances of acute erosion. Your eye doctor must carefully describe to you in detail the risks that are associated with using bandage lenses long term.
  • rely on surgical options. Depending on where the erosion is located and centralized, there are several different surgical options that can make a difference. Surgical options are minimally invasive and come with little risks.


If you feel like your eyes are constantly under attack and in pain, you may be suffering from RCES. Contact an eye doctor immediately to get a thorough examination in order to determine whether you have a scratch on your eyes or whether the Bowman's layer is really malfunctioning. RCES is quite common. Although it is hard to diagnose, it is relatively easy to treat.