What happens if I get a corneal abrasion?

By Kristina Oneill on December 30, 2013

What happens if I get a corneal abrasion?


A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the surface of the eye, resulting in a sloughing in the epithelium layer.  The most common cause of a corneal abrasion is trauma such as a fingernail poking the eye, getting hit in the eyes with a ball, leaving contact lenses in your eyes too long, sand in the eye etc.  A corneal abrasion can be very painful.  Once the epithelium is scratched, many of the nerve endings are exposed and lead to light sensitivity, pain and tearing.  If you get hit in the eye and think you may have a corneal abrasion, it is best to seek immediate attention and have a full eye exam.  Abrasions that are smaller will likely be better within 24 hours.

According to the Mayo Clinic - this should be your protocol if you get a corneal abrasion:

In case of corneal abrasion, seek prompt medical attention. Other immediate steps you can take for a corneal abrasion are to:

“Rinse your eye with clean water (use a saline solution, if available). You can use an eyecup or small, clean drinking glass positioned with its rim resting on the bone at the base of your eye socket. If your work site has an eye-rinse station, use it. Rinsing the eye may wash out a foreign object.

Blink several times. This movement may remove small particles of dust or sand.

Pull the upper eyelid over the lower eyelid. The lashes of your lower eyelid can brush away a foreign object from the undersurface of your upper eyelid.

Take caution to avoid certain actions that may irritate the injury:

Don't try to remove an object that's embedded in your eyeball. Also avoid trying to remove a large object that makes closing the eye difficult.

Don't rub your eye after an injury. Touching or pressing on your eye can worsen a corneal abrasion.  

Don't touch your eyeball with cotton swabs, tweezers or other instruments. This can further aggravate a corneal abrasion.

Uncomplicated corneal abrasions usually heal spontaneously within 24 to 48 hours.”


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