What Is a Corneal Abrasion?
A corneal abrasion describes any type of scrape or scratch to the surface of the cornea, and it is one of the most common types of eye injuries. Corneal abrasions can occur when the cornea comes into direct contact with a sharp or pointed object, such as a fingernail, makeup brush, or a tree branch, or when airborne particles like dust or dirt are able to enter the eye. Contact lens wear and dry eye can also cause corneal abrasions.
Symptoms of corneal abrasions often include:
- Pain or discomfort, like something is stuck in the eye
- Blurred or hazy vision
- Sensitivity to light
Your eye doctor will check to see if you have a corneal abrasion by putting a dye called fluorescein on the eye’s surface and then looking at the cornea with an instrument called a slit lamp. The dye will highlight a cut or scratch on the cornea.
Thankfully, the cornea is able to heal itself from minor abrasions, and small abrasions are often healed within just a couple of days. But if the scratch penetrates the cornea more deeply, the symptoms above are often noticed and treatment can help prevent infection and minimize complications during the healing process, which may take a week or longer.
Based on your exam, your eye doctor may prescribe:
- Moisturizing eye drops to soothe the cornea
- Antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection
- Eye drops to dilate, or widen, the pupil, which can help relieve pain
- A patch to wear over the injured eye to prevent blinking and making the abrasion worse
- Special contact lenses to reduce pain and speed up the healing
For all abrasions to the cornea, it’s important to not rub the eye as the cornea is healing for the quickest healing and to avoid further problems.