Corneal Abrasion

Closeup of a Cornea

What Is the Cornea?

The cornea is the clear front window of the eye. It covers the colored portion of the eye, much like a watch crystal covers the face of a watch. The cornea is composed of several layers, with the outermost layer called the epithelium.

What Is a Corneal Abrasion?

A corneal abrasion is an injury to the surface layer (epithelium). Abrasions are painful. Common causes of corneal abrasions include problems from contact lenses, fingernails, paper cuts, dirt or grass particles (common when you work outdoors) or rubbing of the eye. There are some eye conditions, such as dry eye, that may make injury more likely. The corneal surface usually heals within a day or two, but there may be some discomfort while it is healing. Tearing, light sensitivity and the feeling that something is in the eye, a ” foreign body sensation,” will accompany even a small abrasion.

How Are Abrasions Treated?

A common treatment is to patch the scratched eye, apply topical medications to control pain, or apply a contact lens bandage. Antibiotic drops or ointment are often used because of the small risk of infection. Sometimes a drop is used to dilate the pupil to help with pain associated with light sensitivity. Even after the surface has healed, the cornea may still be sensitive to wind and dust. Often, additional lubrication is helpful, both during the day and at bedtime, until the sensitivity has disappeared. Some other diseases, such as dry eye or diabetes, may slow healing.