A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the cornea. The cornea is the clear, front surface of the eye. It is located directly in front of the colored part of the eye.
The cornea has several layers that help protect the eye.
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Most corneal abrasions happen as a result of:
Factors that may increase your risk of corneal abrasion include:
Symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms. An eye exam will be done. The doctor will look for any foreign objects in the eye. Drops may also be placed in your eye to make you more comfortable. It can also make the scratch more visible under a special light.
Minor scratches usually heal within 1-2 days. Some severe corneal abrasions may form a scar and permanently impair vision. You may be referred to an eye specialist for large or deep scratches.
Treatment may include:
The doctor will remove the foreign object. This may be done by flushing the eye with saline or by using a cotton swab, needle, or other tool.
Medications may include:
Always go to an eye doctor immediately if your eye is bothering you. Steps that you may need to follow include:
In some cases, your eye doctor will place a contact lens in the eye to help relieve the discomfort and improve healing.
The doctor will likely ask you to come back often to make sure the scratch is healing.
Prevention aims to avoid injury to the cornea. To avoid injuring the cornea:
If something gets in your eye:
If an object strikes your eye at a fast pace, it can be a medical emergency. Seek medical attention immediately.
If a chemical splashes into your eyes, flush your eyes immediately and call 911.
If you do have eye pain or a foreign object, consider seeing an eye specialist immediately rather than going to the emergency room. However, if you have a severe injury or chemical splash, call 911 or go immediately to the nearest emergency room.
American Academy of Ophthalmology
American Optometric Association
Canadian Association of Optometrists
Canadian Health Network
Behrman RE, Kliegman R, Jenson HB. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 16th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2000.
Corneal abrasion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated August 22, 2012. Accessed December 28, 2012.
Corneal abrasion. American Academy of Family Physician Familydoctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/staying-healthy/first-aid/corneal-abrasions.html . Updated December 2010. Accessed December 28, 2012.
Rosen R, Barkin R, Danzl DF. Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby-Year Book, Inc; 1998.
DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Turner A, Rabiu M. Patching for corneal abrasion. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews . 2006;(2). No: CD004764. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004764.pub2.
Last reviewed November 2012 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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