What is a corneal abrasion?
A corneal abrasion is any scratch or scrape on the clear, outer layers of the eye, the cornea, the protective window that covers the iris and the pupil. Since the cornea plays an important role in focusing light as it enters the eye, any corneal abrasion that has the potential to cause scarring can ultimately affect vision.
Corneal abrasions can be caused in a variety of ways. Commonly, things that blow into the eye such as sand, dust, dirt, ashes from a campfire, sawdust, or plant matter (such as pine needles) can cause an abrasion, especially when they get lodged beneath the eyelid. Items striking the eye can also cause corneal abrasions such as in sports injuries, an errant branch on a nature hike, metal or wood shavings, chemical splashes or even fingers from a small child poking the eye. Other causes can include improperly fitted or dirty contact lenses and rubbing the eyes too hard once something is felt in the eye.
What are the symptoms of a corneal abrasion?
Due to the high number of nerve endings found in the cornea, a corneal abrasion can be very painful. Symptoms include blurry vision, excessive tearing, burning, increased sensitivity and redness. Some people describe it as having “sand in my eyes”.
What should I do if I suspect a corneal abrasion?
See your eye care professional immediately if you suspect a corneal abrasion. While most abrasions are only superficial, some can become infected and turn into corneal ulcers, a much more serious condition. Refrain from rubbing your eyes after a suspected injury, as this can worsen the corneal abrasion. Rinsing the eye with clean water or a saline solution may help remove any debris.
How long will it take the corneal abrasion to heal?
Most corneal abrasions will resolve within 24 to 48 hours. Your doctor may patch your eye during the healing process and may prescribe some antibiotics to prevent infection.