What is a Corneal Abrasion?
A corneal abrasion or scratched cornea is a painful condition in which the top layers of the cornea are damaged by trauma to the eye. With proper treatment, corneal abrasions heal quickly. However, if treatment is delayed, infections and vision loss can occur.
Signs and Symptoms of a Corneal Abrasion
The most common symptoms of a corneal abrasion are:
- Light Sensitivity
- Foreign Body Sensation
- Watering Eye
What Causes a Corneal Abrasion?
The vast majority of corneal abrasions are caused by some sort of trauma to the eye and the patient stories of how the trauma occurred can be very interesting. Yardwork is probably the most common activity when a corneal abrasion occurs. Tree branches, leaves, and gardening tools can easily damage the cornea. Makeup brushes, fingernails, and wood and metal shavings are other common sources of injury.
How is a Corneal Abrasion Diagnosed?
A corneal abrasion is usually diagnosed by patient history and a slit lamp (lighted microscope) examination by your eye doctor. Urgent care or emergency room doctors do not have the proper equipment to diagnose a corneal abrasion.
How is a Corneal Abrasion Treated?
The classic treatment for a corneal abrasion has been to pressure patch the eye with gauze and tape. Besides looking ridiculous, this patching method makes it very difficult for the patient to function properly and to protect the cornea from the eyelids rubbing on the wound. The best way to treat a corneal abrasions is to use a bandage contact lens. Your eye doctor will first soak the contact lens in an antibiotic solution and then apply the contact lens to the affected eye after the cornea has been anesthetized. This bandage contact lens will keep the lid from rubbing on the wound and allow it to heal. It will also allow the patient to be functional and relatively comfortable during the healing process. Ideally the lens is left in the eye 24 hours per day for seven days and antibiotic drops are used four times a day in the affected eye.
A common complication of corneal abrasion is a recurrent corneal erosion. Usually the corneal abrasion heals within 48 hours but the new corneal tissue is very fragile and can peel off, reopening the wound weeks or months after the injury. This can be quite painful. Recurrent corneal erosions usually occur in the morning as the eyelid can stick to the fragile cornea at night and tear the new tissue when the eye is opened in the morning. A good way to prevent this adhesion is to use a thick lubrication drop before going to sleep for at least a month after the injury.
Another common side effect is an inflammation of the iris called traumatic iritis(link to iritis page) which occurs at the time of the injury or shortly after. Usually your eye doctor will instill a potent pupil dilation drop into the affected eye which will relax the iris for 2 to 3 days.
What Steps Should I Take if I Think I Have a Corneal Abrasion?
If you have had an injury to your eye, it would best to call Dr. Reinders soon as possible. Left untreated, a corneal abrasion can take weeks to resolve and can cause infection and scarring of the cornea. This could lead to permanent vision loss. Dr. Reinders has 22 years of experience in treating corneal abrasion and related problems.