What to Do with a Scratched Cornea or Corneal Abrasion

by Jun 10, 2020

Even when we are as careful as possible, accidents and injuries can still occur.  Eye injuries are no exception to this fact.  They can be scary and downright painful, but scratches to the front of the eye are more common than you may think.  Scratches to the outermost layer of the eye, called the cornea, have a wide variety of causes; most commonly, the culprit is a fingernail, a pet paw, a branch or shrub, or a children’s toy, but anything that comes close to the face has the potential to scratch and injure the corneal surface.  These injuries, called corneal abrasions, should be evaluated and treated by an eye care professional.  


Symptoms of a Corneal Abrasion 

Corneal abrasions are the most common form of eye injury, and luckily they are easy to manage and treat.  Unfortunately, they can create a lot discomfort in the process.  The front surface of the eye is packed with nerve endings and is very sensitive to any sort of disruptions, so corneal abrasions usually result in a fair amount of initial pain.  This pain is oftentimes accompanied by redness, tearing, and light sensitivity.  Most people who experience a corneal abrasion have a difficult time opening their eye due to a combination of all these symptoms.  Depending on the location of the scratch, vision can be blurry after the accident. 


Treating a Scratched Cornea 

If you have had an incident that has resulted in a scratched cornea and uncomfortable symptoms, see your eye doctor as soon as possible.  Prompt evaluation is important to rule out any possible complications or risks.  Most corneal abrasions are superficial, meaning they only affect the outermost later of the cornea.  However, some injuries have the potential to affect deeper layers of the cornea, which can permanently affect vision.  These injuries will need to be treated differently than superficial abrasions, so a doctor should assess the injury as soon as possible. 

For a superficial corneal abrasion, there are several different treatment options that can depend on the size or severity of the injury.  In most cases, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic eye drop to prevent any infection of the injury.  They will also recommend heavy lubrication with artificial tears, which helps improve comfort and quickens the healing process.  Your doctor may choose to give you an eye drop that dilates your pupil for a long period of time.  This dilation drop can reduce pain by stabilizing the sensitive muscle inside of the eye.  They may also recommend over-the-counter pain management, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to ease the pain.  In some cases, a contact lens can be used as a “bandage” for the scratch.  This can improve comfort throughout the healing process, and is more commonly used for large scratches. 

Once treatment has been initiated, the pain should start to improve.  The corneal surface is very quick to regenerate, and in some instances can heal itself in as little as 24 hours (depending on the size of the injury).  While your wound is healing, your doctor will want to monitor you very closely and may ask you to come to follow-up appointments every day until the abrasion has resolved.   


Our eye doctors at Wilmington Family Eye Care in Wilmington, DE excel in prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye disease. Call our optometrists at 302-299-1286 or schedule an eye exam appointment online if you would like to learn more about scratched corneas (ie: corneal abrasions). Our eye doctors, Drs. Daniel Baruffi, Joseph Goldberg, and Karen Darrell provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Wilmington, Delaware and its surrounding areas.

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