Treatment options for corneal epithelial defects

In the human eye, the cornea's function is to refract light onto the lens and retina to maintain vision function — but this role is dependent on the corneal epithelium’s ability to renew itself continually. The corneal epithelium provides a barrier to protect the interior of the cornea from damage, but when it becomes injured, this function becomes impaired.

Damage to the corneal epithelium is referred to as a defect. In most cases, these injuries can heal on their own. However, in instances of prolonged injury, called persistent corneal epithelial defect, certain treatments are necessary to facilitate the healing process. Read on to learn more about persistent corneal epithelial defects and how they are treated.

What is a persistent corneal epithelial defect?

By definition, a persistent corneal epithelial defect is defined as a corneal injury that takes more than 10 days to heal despite standard supportive treatments. Typically, the corneal epithelium cells are self-renewing, but certain injuries impair this layer’s ability to heal on its own and require more intensive treatments.

Common treatments of persistent corneal epithelial defects

How a corneal epithelial defect is treated depends on several factors, including its size, cause, and how long it has persisted. Some common treatment options include:

  • Oral antibiotics, to prevent possible infection
  • Lubricating drops, which may also be antibacterial
  • Bandaged contact lenses
  • Surgery
  • Amniotic membrane grafts

Because the eye’s corneal epithelial stem cells can usually repair the defect on their own, the goal of treatment is to prevent infection and keep the individual comfortable during this process. 

In addition to these standard treatments, new research is underway to uncover novel therapies that may be more effective. Through volunteering for corneal epithelial defect clinical trials, individuals can receive access to potential new treatments and help research advance — click the button to learn more about what studies are currently recruiting.