Exposure Keratitis and Sleeping with Your Eyes Open

We’ve all heard about people who sleep with their eyes open, but did you know that this can cause serious issues with your eyes?

Sleeping with the eyes open, either partially or fully, is actually a medical condition known as nocturnal lagophthalmos. This is a relatively common condition is a form of partial facial paralysis, and it can cause many eye issues.

When you cannot fully close your eyes during sleep, your eye is left exposed to air. Tears then evaporate, leaving the eye without the moisture it requires. When the eyes don’t have adequate moisture, patients are at a higher risk for eye infections and blurred vision. Many common symptoms include dryness, scratchiness, and a foreign body sensation, particularly upon waking. Patients who experience nocturnal lagophthalmos often notice that the symptoms worsen in the winter, due to the low humidity, both indoors and out.

The green specks are unhealthy cells that are at risk for infection.

The green specks are unhealthy cells that are at risk for infection.

The patient above has dry eye syndrome complicated by exposure keratitis. Her family members have confirmed that she doesn’t close her eyes when she sleeps. Her condition has also caused her to experience blurry vision that is not remedied by prescription eyeglasses. The external ocular photograph above is a popular method for monitoring treatment. The unhealthy cells that are at risk for infection appear as green spots and specks, while the blueish color is the light from the microscope.

Treatment for nocturnal lagophthalmos and resulting exposure keratitis and dry eye syndrome can include wearing a sleep mask, lubricating eye drops and ointments, and, in more serious cases, surgery. Because a number of underlying conditions can cause nocturnal lagophthalmos, it is important to speak with your eye care professional to determine the best course of treatment.

 From the eye doctors, opticians and staff at Rinkov Eyecare Centers. We’ve provided comprehensive eye exams, contact lenses, eyeglasses, sunglasses and medical treatment of eye disease, such as cataract treatment, in Columbus, Ohio for over 35 years. Come see an optometrist at one of our Columbus locations – Downtown, West, East, Westerville, Dublin, Bexley, Worthington and Nationwide Plaza.

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