A corneal abrasion, also known as a corneal eye scratch, often feels like a speck of sand in your eye that won’t come out. These injuries can cause multiple uncomfortable symptoms, including severe eye pain, watery eyes, headache, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision.
You may feel intense pain when looking at a bright light or notice a spot of blood or an area of redness in the white area of your eye.
If you have injured your eye that is concerning you, schedule an appointment at The Urgency Room immediately to be seen by an emergency trained provider.
What Is A Corneal Abrasion?
A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the cornea, the clear outer layer that covers the iris and pupil. An object scratching your eye causes these abrasions, creating a tear in that tissue.
These injuries are often superficial. Some people don’t even notice they’ve injured their eye until they look in the mirror and see a spot of red, while others experience more severe symptoms.
The severity of your symptoms depends on whether you’ve scratched the white part of your eye or damaged the cornea.
A corneal abrasion can cause permanent damage to your vision if it isn’t treated, so it’s important to seek treatment at a physical location or through our telehealth services as quickly as possible.
Common Causes of Corneal Abrasions
A variety of things can cause a corneal abrasion. This injury can happen while playing with your pets, cooking, or working in an area exposed to floating particles of wood or rust.
Here’s a brief list of the most common causes of corneal abrasions:
- Animal paws
- Pieces of paper
- Tiny pieces of rust
- Contact lenses
What To Do for a Scratched Eye
If you believe you’ve scratched your eye, seeking professional treatment is important.
However, you can follow these ophthalmologist-recommended steps when you need an eye scratch treatment plan to get you through until your appointment.
- Rinse your eyes with clean water or a saline solution. This will help remove any particles of dust, glass, etc., that may be left in your eye and prevent further damage.
- Blink. Blinking can also help clear any remaining particles from your eye.
- Wear sunglasses. Sunglasses will help protect your sensitive eye from the light and help reduce some of your symptoms, including eye pain and headaches.
- Don’t rub or touch your eye. It may be tempting to rub your eye to use your finger to remove any leftovers, but this can worsen the corneal abrasion.
- Don’t wear contacts. If you require a prescription to see, stick to eyeglasses. Wearing contacts will slow the healing process and further irritate your damaged eye.
- Don’t use over-the-counter eye drops. Over-the-counter eyedrops may be tempting, but they won’t help you heal faster and may cause further pain.
How To Soothe a Scratched Eye
Aside from the basic first-aid we mentioned, you can do a few other things to soothe a scratched eye. Although, remember that you must meet with a healthcare professional to develop a true eye scratch treatment plan.
While there are things you can do at home to prevent further damage and ease discomfort, it’s not a replacement for professional medical treatment.
Here are a few things you can do to soothe a scratched eye at home:
- Use a cool compress to ease inflammation and discomfort
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories if necessary
What Happens if You Don’t Treat a Scratched Eye?
The consequences of not treating a scratched eye will depend on the severity of the injury. Minor scratches will likely heal within a few days, but a true corneal abrasion requires medical treatment.
Not seeking treatment for a corneal abrasion can lead to a variety of unpleasant consequences, including:
- Long-term and lasting vision problems
If you’re unsure about the severity of your injury, set up a telehealth appointment to discuss your symptoms with a trained medical professional. They can guide you on the best course of action to take.
Diagnosing a Corneal Abrasion
When you seek urgent care for an eye injury, your healthcare provider will examine your eye for damage. They will likely use a machine called a slit lamp to take a closer look at your eye. This diagnostic tool can only be found in an emergency room or optometrist’s office.
First, your doctor may use a dropper to administer a dye to your eye. This will highlight the extent of the damage to your cornea when viewed with the slit lamp.
After your healthcare provider evaluates the injury, you’ll be given an eye scratch treatment plan to follow, which typically involves at-home care instructions.
Treatment for Corneal Abrasions
This type of injury is typically treated at home. Eye scratches are quite common and will usually heal on their own, helped along by some at-home care. If your doctor gave you specific care instructions, be sure to follow them.
Here are a few steps you can take to help you recover from your corneal eye scratch:
- Tylenol and ibuprofen will help with the pain from the abrasion
- Use antibiotic ointment or eye drops as directed by your healthcare provider
- Finish any medications with antibiotics in them
- Avoid wearing contacts until your eye is healed
Will an Eye Patch Help?
Many people think a patch over the eye will help the corneal abrasion heal, but this belief is incorrect. If you patch your eye, you may actually delay the healing process and increase your risk of infection. Going without a patch is much better, as the cornea replaces itself every five days.
When to Return to the Doctor
Your symptoms should gradually improve over the next two days. If you don’t see improvement, seeing an eye doctor immediately is vital.
Come back to the Urgency Room if:
- You can’t get in to see an eye doctor
- Pain is worse
- Vision difficulties are increasing
- You notice yellow drainage from your eye scratches
Corneal abrasions and other injuries that cause eye pain must be handled with care to avoid infections and other complications.