What is a corneal abrasion?

A Corneal abrasion is a scraped, scratched, or torn area of the corneal surface (named the epithelium), usually resulting from an injury such as a finger in the eye, a tree branch, a foreign body, or damage from a contact lens. In some corneal abrasions, the Bowman’s membrane, which is a layer just below the epithelium, may also be damaged.

corneal abrasionThe cornea contains more nerve endings than virtually any other part of the body. Therefore, damage to the cornea is extremely painful. Corneal abrasion is one of the most common injuries to the eye.

The most common symptoms of a corneal abrasion are redness, pain, blurred vision, excessive tears, sensitivity to light, or a feeling that an object is in the eye. In some cases, there may indeed be a foreign body under the eyelids or in the eye (or on the cornea, more specifically) that needs to be removed (see image of metallic rust ring on the cornea). Most such abrasions occur in one eye only, and many result from wearing contact lenses improperly.

In many cases, depending on the severity, the cornea will heal completely in 48 hours, leaving no permanent damage. However, if the pain is severe or persistent, contact Phoenix Ophthalmologists immediately for an evaluation. An anesthetic eye drop is used during the examination to ease the pain, and the most common treatment is antibiotic drops or ointment to prevent infection. A topical dilating drop can also be used to help with pain management for several hours. If the abrasion is severe, a bandage contact lens is employed that acts like a band-aid and allows the cornea to heal with minimal pain. Superficial abrasions rarely cause permanent loss of vision. However, it may take several weeks for clear vision to return, and it is imperative during the healing process not to rub your eyes.

Sometimes, long after an abrasion has healed, it can recur spontaneously. This recurrence can appear when you wake up in the morning. It happens when an area of the epithelium has not reconnected to the deeper parts of the cornea. Treatment is similar to that for the original abrasion. If you think you have a corneal abrasion, contact Dr. Van Buren at Phoenix Ophthalmologists to schedule an appointment immediately. Our clinic has openings daily for urgent care eye issues.