Corneal Neuralgia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

by Feb 15, 2021Eye Conditions

The cornea sits at the front of the eye and acts as a window through which the eye sees. It is responsible for transmitting light and protecting the eye from debris.

With its many nerves, the cornea is also one of the most sensitive body parts to pain, and in some cases, can be susceptible to neuralgia. Corneal neuralgia refers to pain experienced by the patient even though there may be no physical sign that an injury is present or has occurred.

What Causes Corneal Neuralgia?

Corneal neuralgia is caused by damage to the nerves in the cornea, resulting in nerve stimulation even though there is no offending pathogen or present injury.

The underlying cause for the condition can vary from past herpetic infections, recurrent corneal erosions, certain medications, or refractive laser surgery. These causes all affect the corneal nerves, possibly leading to irreversible damage.

Once harm has occurred, the eye may enter a vicious cycle of damage and lack of healing. Corneal nerves are vital in sending signals for healthy and regular tear production.

Damaged corneal nerves, therefore, will lead to decreased production in tears that protect the eye. This can lead to an increase in the severity of the damage as healthy tears are unable to promote healing, perpetuating this injured state of the cornea.

 

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Corneal Neuralgia?

The key symptom experienced is pain, sometimes even incapacitating pain. Other associated symptoms, such as blurry vision, red eyes, or swollen eyelids, may be from the underlying cause of the condition.

In some corneal neuralgia cases, there are little to no signs to explain the pain as damage to the nerves is unobservable and rather only experienced by the patient themselves. A hallmark to the condition is a patient’s symptoms that greatly outweigh the visible signs that can be seen by an optometrist.

How is Corneal Neuralgia Treated?

Unfortunately, research is limited on the treatment options for patients suffering from corneal neuralgia. However, treating the underlying condition can help alleviate some of the symptoms.

In the case of dry eye disease, consistent use of a preservative free artificial tear is an optimal starting point as it helps stabilize the tears and supports the eye in producing a healthy tear film.

A lid hygiene routine, consisting of hot compresses and lid wipes, can help with promoting a clean lid environment and a healthy lipid layer to the tears, and omega-3 supplements can assist in decreasing inflammation.

Certain specialty contact lenses have also shown some success in alleviating symptoms of neuralgia associated with dry eye disease.

If damage to the cornea has caused an open wound or defect, an antibiotic may need to be used to prevent infection. An overnight ointment may be instilled to prevent drying in cases where the eye is slightly exposed during sleep.

Autologous serum drops have also shown some success with patients after refractive surgery.

A referral may be made to an ophthalmologist if our optometrist feels that the condition requires surgery. In this case, another provider will be contacted, and an appointment will be made on your behalf.

The pain from this condition can be excruciating and can understandably cause extreme frustration and lower quality of life. Always remember that a counsellor is an excellent resource and guide regarding concerns with mental health.

If you are ever experiencing significant pain and believe that it is affecting your mental health, reach out to our optometrists, and they will connect you to the right resources.

Our eye doctors at EyeDocs Family Eye Care in Brookville, OH excel in prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye disese. Call our optometrists at 937-770-1265 or schedule an eye exam appointment online if you would like to be evaluated for corneal neuralgia. Our eye doctors, Dr. Kyle Maxam and Dr. Cara Wampler, provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Brookville, Ohio.

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