A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the eye's cornea. The cornea is the clear, protective covering over the iris, which is the colored part of the eye, and the pupil, the black circle in the middle of the eye.
It's important both for vision and for protecting the eye. If you poke your eye or if something gets trapped under your eyelid, such as dirt or sand, your cornea may become scratched. When it does, it can cause significant pain and discomfort.
Many situations can cause a corneal abrasion, including:
- Being poked in the eye, by a fingernail, plant, or makeup brush
- Dirt, sand, sawdust, ash, or some other foreign matter blowing into your eye and getting caught under the eyelid
- Chemical burns
- Aggressively rubbing your eye
- Poor fitting or dirty contact lenses
- Certain types of eye infections
- Not protecting the eyes during surgery while under general anesthesia; if your eyes are not closed during surgery, the cornea can dry out, making it more prone to corneal abrasion.
- Symptoms of a corneal abrasion do not always happen immediately. As a result, it's often hard to know what caused it.
When something gets in your eye:
Often, the first reaction to something getting in your eye is to want to rub it. But don't, rubbing can cause an abrasion. Here are some safer ways to try to remove foreign matter from your eye:
- Blink your eye several times.
- Pull your upper eyelid over the lower eyelid.
- Gently rinse your eye out with clean water or a sterile saline solution
Once you've had a corneal abrasion, you're not likely to forget the unrelenting pain and discomfort it can cause. Symptoms may include:
- Feeling like you have sand or grit in your eye
- Eye pain, especially when opening or closing your eye
- Tearing and redness
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision or loss of vision
- Antibiotic eye drops or ointment may be recommended to prevent an infection in cases of corneal abrasion. Medicated eye drops to ease pain and inflammation may also be used.
- Sometimes, doctors temporarily patch the scratched eye. Pain medication may also be given.
- A minorscratch should heal on its own in one to three days. More severe abrasions may take longer to heal.
- Here are some tips to help you while your eye heals:
- Do not wear contacts until your eye has completely healed and your eye doctor says it is safe to do so.
- Wear sunglasses to help ease pain caused by the glare of the sun.
- Do not rub your eye.
Most people fully recover from minor corneal abrasions without permanent eye damage. However, deeper scratches can cause corneal infections, cornea erosion, or scarring of the cornea. If not treated properly, these complications can result in long-term vision problems.