Corneal abrasions are among the most common eye injuries that ophthalmologists treat.
Abrasions or scratches on the surface of the eye can be caused by a fingernail from rubbing the eye too vigorously or scratches from another outside source such as a running into a tree branch or a sports injury. Sometimes contact lens wearers can accidentally scratch the eye when inserting or removing lenses.
Symptoms can include the feeling that something is stuck in the eye like a grain of sand, red, painful, watery eyes, hazy vision and being extra sensitive to light.
During Healthy Vision Month in May, Quigley Eye Specialists and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are sharing valuable information on how to protect your corneas.
If you suspect you have a corneal abrasion, it’s important to visit your ophthalmologist immediately to prevent the condition from worsening. Your ophthalmologist will put a dye called fluorescein on your eye’s surface and then shine a light onto the cornea with a device called a slit lamp. The dye will highlight a cut or scrape on the cornea.
Depending upon the severity of the abrasion, treatment might include wearing a patch over the injured eye to keep you from blinking and making the abrasion worse. Other options include antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection and moisturizing eye drops to soothe the eye. In some cases, special eye drops to dilate your pupil may be prescribed to help relieve pain.
If the abrasion is small, it can heal in one or two days. Larger abrasions may take a week or more to heal.
During this time, do not rub your eyes and avoid wearing contact lenses until your ophthalmologist tells you healing is complete.
We are often asked if it is possible to have LASIK surgery after a corneal abrasion. The answer is yes, but only after healing.
Untreated corneal abrasions can lead to recurrent corneal erosion, which is a more serious eye condition that is often exacerbated by very dry eyes or eyelids that do not close completely when you sleep.
Here are some tips to protect your corneas:
- Wear safety goggles when mowing the lawn and trimming bushes
- Wear safety glasses when playing sports
- Clip your child’s fingernails, especially those of babies who can inadvertently scratch their corneas when rubbing their eyes
- Pay attention when using eye makeup brushes
- Follow directions for inserting and removing contact lenses, if you wear them
Deep scratches can cause infections, scars and other long-term vision problems. That’s why it’s important to see your ophthalmologist at the earliest onset of a corneal abrasion to develop the best treatment option for you.