Exposure Keratopathy

What is exposure keratopathy?

Exposure keratopathy occurs when the surface of the eye becomes dry because the eyelid is not protecting the eye as much as it should. Normally, when a person blinks, the tears are spread across the surface of the eye. In exposure keratopathy, the eyelid cannot be fully closed and tears are not spread to the entire surface of the eye. This causes the surface of the eye to dry out. 

What are the symptoms of exposure keratopathy?

When the surface of the eye dries out, the eye can get irritated. This can lead to blurred vision, light sensitivity, the feeling of dirt or dust in the eye, and eye redness. If the eye stays dry for too long, an infection or scarring can occur. Infection or scarring can cause permanent vision problems if not treated. 

What are the causes of exposure keratopathy?

Exposure keratopathy occurs when the eyelids do not close all the way. The facial nerve is the nerve that helps close the eyelids. Conditions like Bell’s palsy or damage to the eye muscles can affect the facial nerve. Strokes and tumors can cause problems with facial nerve. When a person is in the hospital, general anesthesia or sedatives sometimes cause the eyes not to close.

What is the treatment for exposure keratopathy?

The main treatment for exposure keratopathy is lubrication of the eye surface. In mild cases, the eye can be lubricated using artificial tears, gels, or ointments. In more advanced cases, special moisturizing glasses can be used. If there is an eye infection, antibiotic eye drops can be used. In severe cases, surgery can be used to help a person close their eyelids.