A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the surface of the cornea, which is the clear outer layer on the front of your eye. Corneal abrasions are usually very painful.
Most corneal abrasions heal in a day or two. Some abrasions will take longer to heal.
What is the cause?
Corneal abrasions can be caused by:
Getting poked or hit in your eye
Getting scratched in your eye with any object, such as a fingernail, comb, or twig
Getting something in your eye, such as a splinter, dirt, or eye makeup
Chipped or cracked contact lenses, or wearing lenses too long
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
Redness, pain, and watery eyes
A scratchy feeling or feeling like there is something in your eye
Painful sensitivity to light
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and activities and examine your eye. Using eyedrops and a light that makes an abrasion easier to see, your provider will look at your eye. The drops contain a dye that will make your vision and tears yellow for a few minutes.
How is it treated?
If something is still in your eye, your healthcare provider will remove it.
Your healthcare provider may:
Give you antibiotic drops or ointment to prevent an infection.
Give you eye drops or ointment to help relieve pain.
If you also have eyelid spasms, or severe sensitivity to light, your provider may give you eye drops that dilate your pupil, which relaxes the muscles in your eye and reduces pain.
Place a contact lens bandage over your cornea. The bandage helps to speed up healing and reduces eye pain.
If you wear contact lenses, your healthcare provider may ask you to wait one week or longer after your cornea has healed before you wear your contact lenses again.
How can I take care of myself?
Follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Ask your healthcare provider:
How and when you will hear your test results
How long it will take to recover
If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
How to take care of yourself at home
What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
How can I help prevent a corneal abrasion?
Once youâ€™ve had a corneal abrasion, you are at risk for a repeat abrasion in the same area. It may help to use artificial tears or eye ointment to lubricate your eyes well after an abrasion has healed.
To help prevent severe eye injuries, wear safety eyewear when you:
Do any work around the house that requires hammering, power tools, chemicals, or splatter of any kind
Play paintball, racquetball, lacrosse, hockey, and fast-pitch softball
Shoot firearms or use explosives of any kind
Are in a high-risk area such as a construction site or shooting range
Follow your eye care provider’s instructions for wearing and caring for contact lenses. Do not wear them longer than recommended.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-10-28 Last reviewed: 2014-10-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Corneal Abrasion: References
Krachmer JH, Mannis MJ and Holland EJ, eds.Cornea, 3rd edition. Philadelphia: Mosby, 2010;v.1-2.