A corneal abrasion is a scratch to the exterior of the eyeball. The most common causes are simple exposures from dust, metal, wood, rust or being poked in the eye itself. A person may be working in the garage or gardening without eye protection. A piece of debris will fly into the eye and the person will rub their eye or flush it with water to clear it out. During this time, a foreign particle will scratch the cornea of the eye.
The corneal abrasion pain is very severe. Patients cannot open their eyes fully and will be bothered by bright lights or wind. Patients will cover their eyes with their hands and will have difficulty seeing, reading, or driving. There may be eye tearing, headache, and a runny nose.
Corneal abrasions always require a doctor’s visit to diagnose properly. The physician will instill one or two drops of alcaine or tetracaine to numb the eye. This helps to take the edge off the severe pain. After that, a fluorescein paper will be touched to the eye for staining. This will stain location of the abrasion and can be seen with a special ultraviolet light. The doctor will also invert the upper eyelid twice and sweep the inner eyelids with a cotton swab to remove any foreign debris that may be left behind.
A corneal abrasion takes about 3 weeks to fully heal. The doctor will prescribe eye-drop antibiotics, painkillers, and possibly eye-drop steroids. The patient will be referred to an eye specialist for follow-up. Patients may not wear contact lenses during this time. The long-term healing rates are very good with corneal abrasions.
See your doctor today or contact an eye specialist if you feel you have a corneal abrasion.
Written by Muhammad Emran, MD