What should you do if you accidentally scratch your eye? It’s important to get first aid treatment at an eye clinic as soon as possible. If your cornea—the clear layer covering your iris and the pupil—gets scratched, your vision may be permanently affected.
The Symptoms of Corneal Abrasion
A superficial eye scratch usually has the following symptoms:
Pain in your eyes, particularly when you close your eyelids
The feeling there’s sand or grit in your eyes
Teary, red eyes
However, if your cornea was scratched, you may experience more serious symptoms such as:
Sensitivity to light
If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, you should see an eye specialist as soon as possible.
How Serious Is the Corneal Abrasion?
It depends on which layer of the cornea was scratched. The epithelium is the outermost layer of the cornea and is similar to skin. Beneath the epithelium is a tough, protective structure called Bowman’s membrane. Minor corneal abrasions—which comprise the majority of cases—only affect these two layers and are expected to heal on their own within one to three days without any additional effects.
If you experience a lot of pain in your eyes, the corneal abrasion may have penetrated several layers. Deeper abrasions require treatment because they can cause permanent corneal scars, whitish areas in your cornea that may affect your vision. Should you feel pain in your eyes, don’t hesitate to go to the emergency room. More serious corneal abrasions will take a longer time to heal and may need additional treatment.
Treatment for Corneal Abrasion
To check for eye scratches and any foreign particles, the optician at your local eye clinic will examine your eyes with a light. If they suspect your eyes suffered minor abrasions, they’ll place a drop of a yellow-orange dye called fluorescein in the affected eye. If there are any abrasions, the areas with the dye will look greenish when exposed to special blue light. No further tests are needed for minor corneal abrasions. However,
To reduce inflammation and prevent scarring, your optician may prescribe antibiotics or steroid eye drops. Note that you shouldn’t use eye drops, even over-the-counter ones, without a prescription from your doctor. They won’t help your eyes heal faster and will likely worsen their condition. To treat eye pain, your optician may prescribe nonprescription pain relievers. They might also prescribe cycloplegic drugs—which temporarily reduce the activity of the muscles controlling the size of your pupil—to reduce sensitivity to light.
First Aid For Eye Scratches
In the meantime, here are the things you should and shouldn’t do to prevent the injury from getting worse:
What to Do
Rinse the scratched eye with saline solution or clean water – Wash the scratched eye with saline solution or clean water to remove foreign objects that may have gotten into your eye. It’s best to use an eyecup—an emergency eye care device that’s usually included in first aid kits—or a small, clean glass if you don’t have one.
Blink frequently – Blinking can also help flush out foreign particles that may have gotten into the scratched eye.
Pull the upper eyelid over the lower eyelid – This can induce more tears, which can wash away foreign particles. The lashes on your lower eyelid may also remove particles under the upper eyelid.
Wear sunglasses – Serious corneal abrasions may cause sensitivity to light. To protect your eyes, wear UV-resistant sunglasses from an eye clinic or shop; avoid wearing sunglasses bought from drugstores, as their tinted lenses offer no protection against ultraviolet rays.