Do you know what to do if you scratch your eye? It can be easy to scratch your eye–you may poke your eye on accident, a foreign object may blow into your eye, or get trapped under your eyelid. If you close your eyes and the pain does not subside and continues to burn after several minutes, you may have a corneal abrasion.
What is a Corneal Abrasion?
The cornea is the clear protective, outer layer of your eye and helps to focus light into your eye. When the cornea becomes scratched or scraped, the injury is called a corneal abrasion. Corneal abrasions are common eye injuries and should always be examined by your eye doctor to prevent infection and ensure proper healing.
Trauma can occur from your fingernail, makeup applicator, dust, dirt, sand, pet scratch, or small piece of debris to name a few. In short, anything that makes contact with the surface of your eye can lead to a corneal abrasion. Most cases don’t occur from traumatic injuries but instead occur from rubbing a small particle of dust, dirt, sand, or metal into your eye. If you struggle with dry eye frequently, your eyelids may even stick to your cornea in the morning and lead to a scratch.
Signs & Symptoms
Your cornea is a sensitive part of your body, even if there is a small abrasion it can be extremely painful as though you have a large object stuck on your eyes.
Common symptoms of corneal abrasion may include:
- Decreased vision
- Eye twitching
- Gritty sensation in the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Significant pain or discomfort
- Watery eyes
How is a Corneal Abrasion Diagnosed?
As the abrasion may be tiny, your optometrist may use a special eye drop solution that contains a temporary dye to help your doctor see the severity of the abrasion while examining your cornea with a slit lamp.
Treating a Corneal Abrasion
If you suspect you’ve scratched your eye, see your optometrist immediately. Though some corneal abrasions may be minor and heal on their own, it is important to seek professional treatment to prevent infection.
Until your appointment, you can attempt to cleanse your eye or flush out the foreign body with a sterile saline eyewash. Do not rub your eyes and it can make the problem worse.
Abrasions may be treated with antibiotic eye drops and a solution that helps to reduce inflammation and irritation by adding a soothing layer on top of your cornea. Use them as instructed by your doctor. If you wear contacts, you will have to refrain from wearing them until your eye heals.
If the abrasion is small, it may heal within a few days, however, a larger abrasion will take longer to heal. A deep abrasion may also cause a permanent scar that may affect your vision after recovery.
Though you cannot always prevent injury, you can protect your eyes with safety glasses, face shields, and protective eyewear when working in hazardous environments. For more information on what to do if you scratch your eye or to schedule an appointment, contact St. Lucy’s Vision Center today.