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Chronic Corneal Erosions in Dogs

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Chronic corneal erosions (CEE) are painful open wounds which fail to heal and can be present for many weeks to months. Corneal epithelium is a thin layer covering the cornea. A break in this surface is called an erosion, and is often caused by some type of trauma. Corneal erosions normally heal in 1-3 days, with the epithelial cells multiplying to rapidly cover the wound. However, in animals with CEE, the growing epithelial tissue fails to stick to the corneal surface and loose flaps of epithelium result, which will lay across the wound for several weeks without healing. This healing problem is aggravated if the animal rubs its eye. Rubbing the eye causes loosening of the new epithelium and the eye then has to try to heal all over again. This is why it is important to place a custom-fitted E-collar (cone-shaped restraint collar) on the animal and KEEP IT ON AT ALL TIMES. One single episode of rubbing the eye can undo weeks of attempted healing!

Minor surgery is highly successful in treating CEE, with most patients healing within two weeks following surgery. The surgery requires a sedative to calm the animal followed by eye drops to numb the eye, and then a tiny surgical blade is used to debride (peel) off the defective epithelium (superficial debridement). Then a surgical needle is used to create very shallow grooves in the corneal surface (superficial grid keratotomy). This creates microscopic “footholds” for new, growing epithelium to stick down into these grooves in a more healthy way. And finally, a soft contact lens bandage is placed on the cornea. The lens acts as a bandage, protects the corneal surface, and also improves the comfort of the eye during healing. The lens placement is checked in 2 weeks at which time the lens is removed. The owner DOES NOT have to remove the lens or clean it. An E-collar is kept on the animal AT ALL TIMES after the surgery, until reexamination two weeks later.

After the cornea has heated, the treated area is much less likely to have a repeat episode of poor healing if the cornea is injured again at a later time. Also, if only one eye is affected, it is important to know that the other eye is at risk for developing the same poor healing problem in the future if it is injured.