Corneal abrasions are scratches on the outermost part of the eye. Sometimes a painful injury is the clear cause. Other times, symptoms can build slowly over a few hours. A corneal abrasion causes so much discomfort that sufferers should seek medical care quickly. The scratch can become infected and cause serious damage in as little as 24 hours. Therefore, recognizing a corneal abrasion could save your sight.
The cornea has 6 layers, and it is very sensitive. It helps the body regulate tear production. The cornea sends signals to the brain to direct it to tell the lacrimal glands whether more or less tears are needed every moment.
Symptoms of Corneal Abrasions
The primary symptom is a feeling that there is a foreign body in the eye. It may feel like large chunks of sand, disproportionate to the size of any visible debris. This may develop immediately or a few hours after the initial injury.
The eyes may be watery. Vision can be distorted or blurred.
When looking at a bright light, the eye may feel more painful. The eye muscles may spasm, resulting in squinting.
Corneal Abrasions: Causes
- Debris entering the eye, such as road dust, sawdust, shards of metal, craft supplies, snow and ice, etc.
- Rubbing the eye after debris enters it (instead, use a free-flowing eyewash)
- Watching a welding arc without sufficient eye protection (ultraviolet light)
- Spending the day around water or snow (UV light amplified by glare)
- Rubbing the eye excessively, regardless of cause (allergies, debris, dry eye syndrome, etc.)
- Suffering from dry eye syndrome: waking up, opening the eyes, and the lids are partially attached to the eyes, causing abrasions
- Broken or low-quality decorative contact lens
- A tree branch, fingernail, cosmetic applicator, or another sharp object
- Hot ash from a fire or cigarette
- Surgery or in-office procedures without eye protection (suture scratches)
- Chemicals splashing into the eye
To prevent eye injuries, wear eye protection when playing sports, in the workroom, while handling chemicals, and skiing. Wear sunglasses when outdoors, especially while on the water and in the snow.
What To Do
The first impulse is to rub the eye. Actually, rubbing can make things much worse! Instead, flush the affected eye(s) with sterile saline solution or saline contact lens solution, if available. Bottled and tap water may contain pathogens, but it will suffice if nothing else is available.
Secondly, you may be tempted to apply a patch or bandage. However, the dark, moist environment is perfect for bacteria and fungi to grow. Whatever scratched the cornea likely contained microorganisms that could lead to a serious infection.
If you suspect corneal abrasions, visit your eye doctor, urgent care center, or emergency room promptly. Waiting even one day can mean irreversible eye damage. The doctor will apply drops to keep your eye open and numb it during an exam. He or she may take a gentle swab to check for microorganism types. Most likely, you will need to use drops that fight infection and make the eye more comfortable while healing.
Sometimes, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic ointment, steroids to reduce inflammation, and other medications to increase comfort. You may be given a special healing contact lens. Follow the doctor’s recommendations carefully.
At Natural Eye Care, we have the following protocol for corneal abrasions. This protocol is not meant to replace a doctor’s evaluation and recommendations. These products are available in the Natural Eye Care Online Shop.
- MSM drops – 1 drop in each affected eye 2-3 times per day, and
- Castor oil eye drops – 1 drop in each affected eye before bedtime, and
- Ortho K Thin homeopathic eye drops – 1 drop in each affected eye 2 times per day (best taken at least 1/2 hour – 1 hour or more apart from other eye drops).