A corneal abrasion is a painful cut or scratch on the surface of the cornea
, the front part of the eye. Corneal abrasions are usually a result of trauma to the surface of the eye. Although the cornea consists of five layers, a corneal abrasion usually only affects the top layer (epithelium).
Causes of Corneal Abrasion:
If an object hits your eye, it may cause a corneal abrasion. The following are common causes of corneal abrasion:
- A sharp edge of a plant stem or tree branch hitting the eye (ex: palm frond)
- Dirt or dust particles entering the eye
- A foreign body lodged underneath the eyelid
- Flying particles thrown from a saw or other machinery entering the eye
- Over-wearing contact lenses or wearing a torn or ripped contact lens
- Excessive eye rubbing
- Eyelashes growing the wrong way
- Eye conditions such as severe dry eye syndrome
- An infant putting his finger, with a sharp fingernail, into the eye of his parent.
Corneal Abrasion Symptoms:
If you have a corneal abrasion, you'll probably be in a great deal of pain. You may experience light sensitivity, blurry vision, foreign body sensation, sandy-gritty feeling or eye redness. You may also find it difficult to hold your eye open, and doing so may result in excessive tearing.
Diagnosis of Corneal Abrasion:
If you think you have a corneal abrasion, it is important to seek the care of a doctor quickly. A corneal abrasion is similar to a skinned knee. It is an open sore creating a doorway for bacteria to invade your eye and cause infection.
Your doctor will examine your eye under a slit lamp biomicroscope. He or she will instill a special dye or stain to highlight any imperfections on the surface of the cornea. (Don't worry, the coloring isn't permanent.)
An abrasion, if present, will soak up the stain, showing the doctor the location and depth of the injury. Your eyelid will also be inverted to check for any foreign material that may be lodged deep in your eye.
Treatment of Corneal Abrasion:
Treatment varies depending on the size of the corneal abrasion. In large abrasions, most doctors will insert a bandage contact lens
to cover the injured cornea and speed healing. Numbing eye drops are sometimes prescribed to control pain and reduce secondary inflammation. Antibiotic eye drops are also prescribed to prevent infection. Depending on the level of pain, your doctor may prescribe a topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory eye drop or oral pain medication.
Although corneal abrasions are quite painful, most abrasions heal rather quickly. With proper treatment, you will probably feel much better within 48 hours.
What You Need to Know About Corneal Abrasion:
If you think you have suffered a corneal abrasion, seek treatment from a doctor immediately. Do not rub your eye. Instead, blink several times and gently rinse your eye with clean water. Avoid patching your eye until a doctor has examined you, as the benefit of patching is not clear and might even slow things down if done incorrectly.
Cullom, Douglas R, Benjamin Chang, Mark A. Friedberg, and Christopher Rapuano. The Wills Eye Manual: Office and Emergency Room Diagnosis and Treatment of Eye Disease. J.B. Lippincott Company, 5th Edition, 2008.