Eye discomfort might not sound like that big of a deal on paper, but it can seriously hamper your quality of life. At the same time, eye injuries like a corneal abrasion can also affect your vision in the short and long term.

What Is Corneal Abrasion?

The term “Corneal Abrasion” refers to a scratch on the surface layers of an eye. on your eye. While it might sound a little obscure to someone who has never had one, it is actually one of the most common types of eye injury.

What Is The Cornea Of The Eye?

The cornea is a clear surface on the front of the eye that helps to protect other more sensitive structures behind it like the lens, iris, or retina. When the cornea is damaged it is often called a corneal abrasion, which essentially disrupts the protective outer cellular layer known as the eye’s epithelium.

When this happens it can leave the affected eye at increased risk of developing a serious infection. In some cases, it can also affect your visual clarity.

What Are Common Causes Of Corneal Abrasion?

As the surface layer of the eye, there is a wide range of things that can affect the cornea causing an abrasion. While significant eye trauma can certainly cause a corneal abrasion, the truth is that most cases are related to common everyday things. This might include:

  • A tree branch hitting you in the face hiking in the woods
  • Aggressive use of a makeup brush
  • Playing with your pet
  • Rubbing your eye with long fingernails
  • Workplace debris
  • Wind blow debris
  • Sports injury
  • Accidentally getting poked in the eye

It’s also worth noting that dry eyes can put you at increase your chances of suffering a corneal abrasion. This is also true for people who suffer from chronic dry eye and find that their eyelids stick to the corneal when sleeping, which can also cause a minor corneal abrasion.

Can Contact Lenses Protect My Eyes From A Corneal Abrasion?

Unfortunately, contact lenses offer very little protection for your eyes when it comes to the risk of suffering a corneal abrasion. It’s also possible for damaged contacts to scratch your cornea, especially if you have a bad habit of wearing them too long.

What Are Symptoms Of Corneal Abrasion?

Common symptoms of a scratched cornea or corneal abrasion might involve:

  • Significant eye discomfort
  • Watery eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • The feeling that there is something stuck in your eyes
  • Decreased visual clarity
  • Headache
  • Twitching eyes

What If There Is Something In My Eye?

Sometimes corneal abrasions are caused by physical contact with the eye such as organic matter like a tree branch hitting you in the face or wind-blown sand and dust. This can exacerbate symptoms if the debris is still present in your eye.

In a scenario like this, you can try to rinse your eyes with distilled water or over-the-counter eye drops. Though you need to avoid rubbing your eye, as this could increase the friction and contact between the foreign matter and the surface of your eye. Do not wash your eyes out with tap water or other natural sources of water as this can potentially introduce microorganisms that might exploit the damaged tissues.

When To Seek Medical Care For A Suspected Corneal Abrasion?

If you have flushed the affected eye with clean water or eye drops and you are still experiencing significant symptoms or the feeling of a foreign body in the eye is severe, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Especially if a traumatic event has impacted your vision.

How Is A Corneal Abrasion Diagnosed?

An optometrist or ophthalmologist will start the diagnostic process by applying a special type of eye drop to numb your eye. This will help you keep it open for the duration of the exam without undue discomfort. When you are comfortable, the eye doctor might then apply a special eye drop containing a temporary dye to help reveal the extent and severity of the corneal abrasion. This typically involves using a blue light to heighten the visual contrast on the surface of the eye.

How Is A Corneal Abrasion Treated?

The treatment plan that your eye doctor recommends will be based on the severity of the corneal abrasion, as well as any other damage that might have occurred to other structures within or around the eye. Fortunately, most superficial corneal abrasions heal on their own in two to three days’ time.

In the case of a minor corneal abrasion, treatment might involve using non-preserved lubricating drops which will help keep the affected eye moist and comfortable while it heals on its own. If there is any concern about infection, your eye doctor might also include antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection while the eye heals.

The vast majority of corneal abrasions heal on their own, relatively quickly and with no appreciable change to your vision. Though a traumatic event that damages other structures in the eye can lead to more significant complications. So, it’s wise to closely follow your eye doctor’s instructions

In a severe case of corneal abrasion, your physician might advocate the use of a steroid to help reduce inflammation. This typically also helps to reduce pain and may also help treat light sensitivity problems.

If the corneal abrasion is near the lens of the eye or the lens is directly affected, your eye doctor might use a bandage contact lens, and provide you with prescription eye drops. This helps with pain relief and can also help speed the healing process.

Can I Wear Contact Lenses While My Corneal Abrasion Heals?

Contact lenses are typically counter-indicated while a corneal abrasion heals. They can increase the risk of an infection developing under the lens. Your eye doctor will let you know when it’s safe to wear contact lenses after suffering a scratched cornea.

How To Prevent A Scratched Cornea?

Many corneal abrasions are the result of simple household accidents or incidental contact with airborne debris. Though there are certain situations and vocations that put you at higher risk of suffering a corneal abrasion.

Make sure that you are always wearing appropriate protective eyewear during sports when using power tools or other situations that notably put your eyes at risk. Always follow your eye doctor’s advice regarding the use of contact lenses and make sure you are caring for your contact lenses properly.

If you have been having problems with recurring or chronic dry eye, make sure to mention it to your eye doctor. They can help provide you with relief, which will further reduce your risk of suffering a corneal abrasion caused by dry eye complications.