Dry eyes can be the underlying trigger for a painful and recurring condition called Recurrent Corneal Erosion Syndrome (or RCES).
What is RCES?
In this condition, the delicate surface of your cornea adheres to your closed eyelids during sleep. When you wake up and open your eyes, the surface is ruptured, leading to a very uncomfortable eye for the next few days or longer.
Recurrent corneal erosion is often caused by an underlying condition called Epithelial Basement Membrane Dystrophy (or EBMD), which means the top layer of the cornea is more loosely attached than normal and can dislodge more easily. This can lead to RCES occurring in both eyes, although not necessarily at the same time.
The condition can also be triggered by trauma or recent eye surgery, in which case it tends to only affect the eye that had surgery or sustained the injury.
Contact lens wear can also lead to this condition.
Dry eye syndrome dehydrates the eyes and allows the cornea to make direct contact with the eyelids, especially during sleep. This causes the corneal surface to pull away on waking.
The result? Misery.
The symptoms of this disorder are:
- Sharp pain in the eye (especially on waking)
- Feeling like there is something in your eye (foreign body sensation)
- Watery eyes
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
- Inability to keep the eye open
- Light sensitivity (photophobia)