What is a Corneal Abrasion?

A corneal abrasion refers to a scratch of the front clear surface of the eye, the cornea. The cornea covers the colored iris and the round pupil. Light is focused while passing through the cornea so we can see.

What causes a Corneal Abrasion?

A corneal abrasion is usually the result of direct injury to the eye, often from sand, dust, dirt, wood or metal shavings, a fingernail, makeup brushes, a tree branch or a contact lens. Rubbing your eyes very hard can also scratch the cornea. Sometimes, if a corneal abrasion hasn’t healed properly, it can come back weeks or months after the original injury. In some people, the outer layers of the cornea are weak. These people may get a corneal abrasion for no apparent reason.

Symptoms of a Corneal Abrasion

Common symptoms are:

  • Eye Pain
  • Feeling like sand or grit is in your eye
  • Blurred vision
  • Abnormal sensitivity to light
  • Redness of the eye
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Tearing
  • Headache

How is it treated?

The cornea has a remarkable ability to heal itself, so treatment is designed to minimize complications. An ophthalmic exam will include a slit lamp – a microscope with a light source – to allow the doctor to see the abrasion. To help make the abrasion visible, a yellow-orange dye may be placed on your eye.

If the abrasion is small, the doctor might suggest an eye lubricant and a follow-up visit the next day. A small abrasion should heal in one to two days; others may take a week. To avoid possible infection, an antibiotic drop may be prescribed. Sometimes additional eye drops may make the eye feel more comfortable. Depending on the extent of the abrasion, some optometrists and ophthalmologists may patch the affected eye. It is very important to attend the follow-up checkups to make sure an infection does not occur.

If you wear contact lenses, you need to be especially careful with a corneal abrasion because you have a higher risk of infection. Your eye doctor may tell you not to wear your contact lenses for a few days if you’re treating your eye with medicine.