Corneal Abrasion

What is a corneal abrasion?

A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the surface of the cornea, which is the clear outer layer on the front of your eye. Corneal abrasions are usually very painful.

Most corneal abrasions heal in a day or two. Some abrasions will take longer to heal.

What is the cause?

Corneal abrasions can be caused by:

  • Getting poked or hit in your eye
  • Getting scratched in your eye with any object, such as a fingernail, comb, or twig
  • Getting something in your eye, such as a splinter, dirt, or eye makeup
  • Chipped or cracked contact lenses, or wearing lenses too long

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Redness, pain, and watery eyes
  • A scratchy feeling or feeling like there is something in your eye
  • Painful sensitivity to light
  • Blurry vision
  • Eyelid spasms

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and activities and examine your eye. Using eyedrops and a light that makes an abrasion easier to see, your provider will look at your eye. The drops contain a dye that will make your vision and tears yellow for a few minutes.

How is it treated?

If something is still in your eye, your healthcare provider will remove it.

Your healthcare provider may:

  • Give you antibiotic drops or ointment to prevent an infection.
  • Give you eye drops or ointment to help relieve pain.
  • If you also have eyelid spasms, or severe sensitivity to light, your provider may give you eye drops that dilate your pupil, which relaxes the muscles in your eye and reduces pain.
  • Place a contact lens bandage over your cornea. The bandage helps to speed up healing and reduces eye pain.

If you wear contact lenses, your healthcare provider may ask you to wait one week or longer after your cornea has healed before you wear your contact lenses again.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent a corneal abrasion?

  • Once you’ve had a corneal abrasion, you are at risk for a repeat abrasion in the same area. It may help to use artificial tears or eye ointment to lubricate your eyes well after an abrasion has healed.
  • To help prevent severe eye injuries, wear safety eyewear when you:
    • Do any work around the house that requires hammering, power tools, chemicals, or splatter of any kind
    • Play paintball, racquetball, lacrosse, hockey, and fast-pitch softball
    • Shoot firearms or use explosives of any kind
    • Are in a high-risk area such as a construction site or shooting range
  • Follow your eye care provider's instructions for wearing and caring for contact lenses. Do not wear them longer than recommended.

Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site:

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