Similar to the skin, the front layer of the cornea – called the corneal epithelium – is susceptible to being scratched or wounded by a sharp object or forceful blow. When this type of injury occurs, the cornea develops an abrasion which is an open wound on the surface of the front of the eye.
Frequently, when treating a corneal abrasion or similar open wound on the eye, an eye doctor will place a bandage contact lens on the eye to help protect the eye while the healing process occurs. This bandage contact lens is similar to an ordinary soft contact lens but it does not have any prescription power and it is approved to be slept in and worn while using medicated eye drops.
Injuries to the Cornea
The most common injury to the cornea is a corneal abrasion. This is similar to a scratch or a scrape on the skin.
A corneal abrasion can be caused by any sharp object that comes into contact with the eye including a fingernail, pet claw, stick, or nearly anything else that causes a direct impact on the front of the eye.
A similar injury to the cornea is recurrent corneal erosion. This occurs as a result of corneal dystrophy or previous trauma to the cornea. The cornea is weakened and becomes “sticky” during the night. In the morning, the eyelid pulls part of the corneal epithelium away from the eye when the eyes open and causes an open wound.
Penetrating injuries to the cornea are rare and usually the result of a significant traumatic event that caused something to pierce through the eye.
Bandage Contact Lenses for Corneal Injuries
To treat an open wound on the cornea, medication drops including antibiotics and anti-fungal medications can be prescribed to prevent infections and medications like steroid eye drops can be used to prevent scarring of the cornea.
However, in many cases, a bandage contact lens is needed to provide protection and comfort while the cornea heals from the open wound.
The bandage contact lens will prevent the wound from reopening after the epithelium is healed together and will provide a significant improvement in comfort during the healing process.
Having a bandage contact lens on the cornea keeps the eyelid from affecting the healing process and protects against rubbing the wound open.
Since the cornea is extremely sensitive, the bandage contact lens helps keep the surface smooth and prevent other damage that leads to pain.
How a Bandage Contact Lens is Placed and Removed
To place a bandage contact lens, an eye doctor will evaluate the injured eye and determine whether it is appropriate to place a contact lens.
Once it is decided that a bandage contact lens is needed, the eye will have a numbing drop placed in the eye a few seconds before a contact lens is carefully placed in the eye by the doctor.
Once in place, the bandage contact lens is worn for several days and then it will be removed by the doctor at the follow-up visit.