A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the clear front layer of the eye.
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Some causes are:
- Trauma from things like dust, dirt, or metal
- Poor or no protection for eyes during surgery
- Problems from wearing contact lenses, such as not cleaning them well
- Motor vehicle accident trauma
- A chemical or radiation burn
This problem is more common in people who wear contact lenses. It is also more common in men and people who are between 20 and 34 years of age. Other things that may raise the risk are:
- A history of trauma
- Not wearing eye protection for high-risk activities, such as working with metal
- Having dry eyes
- Bell palsy
Problems may be:
- Pain that may worsen when opening or closing the eye
- Red eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Eyelid spasms
- A feeling that something is in the eye
- Problems seeing
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. An eye exam will be done. The doctor will look for any unusual objects in the eye. Drops of a special dye may be placed in the eye. The dye will make it easier to see a scratch when seen under a special blue light.
Most abrasions heal in 1 to 3 days. Large scratches may take up to 4 to 5 days to heal. A cool compress and artificial tears can help ease discomfort. Contact lenses should not be worn.
Treatment choices are:
- Removing any unusual object stuck in the eye
- Supportive care, such as a cool compress and artificial tears to ease pain
- Wearing a bandage contact lens to help a large abrasions heal
- Medicines, such as:
- Antibiotics to prevent infection
- Over the counter pain medicine, such as ibuprofen
- Prescription pain medicine for people with a severe abrasion
To lower the risk of a corneal abrasion:
- Wear eye protection during high-risk jobs or sports
- Wear contact lenses as advised
American Academy of Ophthalmology
American Optometric Association
Canadian Association of Optometrists
Ahmed F, House RJ, et al. Corneal abrasions and corneal foreign bodies. Prim Care. 2015 Sep;42(3):363-375.
Corneal abrasion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/corneal-abrasion. Updated April 29, 2019. Accessed May 1, 2020.
Corneal abrasions. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/staying-healthy/first-aid/corneal-abrasions.html. Updated November 9, 2017. Accessed May 1, 2020.
Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD Last Updated: 5/1/2020