The cornea is the clear layer that surrounds the front area of the eye, protecting the pupil, iris and anterior chamber. Its primary role is to focus the light that enters your eyes. Unlike other tissues in your body, it doesn’t have blood–only proteins and cells.
The cornea can recover fast from minor abrasions. However, deeper scratches can scar it and cause it to lose its transparency. When this happens, you might suffer from irreversible vision loss. Regardless, it’s important to schedule an eye examination immediately if you have an eye injury. Read on to find out what usually causes corneal abrasions and how you’ll know if you’re experiencing this condition.
What Is Corneal Abrasion?
Eye injuries can occur while at work, doing household chores or playing sports. In fact, almost 50% of all eye injuries occur at home. You can accidentally scratch your eyes while petting your dog or cat, doing yard work, cooking, or doing arts and crafts.
The cornea has five layers, and the utmost layer is the most prone to scratches and damage. The other layers can also suffer if the force is strong enough to infiltrate them. Corneal abrasions are external scratches on the front surface of your eye. They can occur when the eye comes in contact with dirt, dust, metal particles or sand. These foreign objects can get stuck in your inner upper eyelid, causing damage to the cornea every time you blink. If your cornea was scratched by pine needles or other plant matter, you might need professional care because this can lead to iritis or delayed inflammation inside the eye.
Minor corneal abrasions and eye scratches usually get better on their own after a few days. However, it’s still best to see a specialist if you’ve experienced an eye injury. Never take medication or try home remedies without a recommendation or prescription from your eye doctor. Keep in mind that over-the-counter eye drops for eye scratches are non-existent. Your doctor might prescribe steroid eye drops for inflammation and to reduce the likelihood of scarring. They might also suggest using lubricating eye drops to help with any discomfort.
What Are the Common Causes and Symptoms
Foreign objects like dust, dirt, ash and sawdust are the usual causes of eye scratches or corneal abrasion. This condition can also occur if you accidentally poke your eye with your finger or pen. Rubbing your eyes too forcefully and exposure to harsh chemicals can result in corneal abrasion. Other causes of this eye condition include prolonged contact lens wear, eye infection and playing contact sports without proper eye protection.
Eye pain and tearing are common indications of a scratched eye. Sufferers may also feel a sensation of having something stuck in their eyes. You might also notice a blood spot or redness in an area of your sclera or conjunctiva.
People with scratched or scraped cornea might encounter more severe symptoms, such as headaches, light sensitivity and blurry vision. Corneal abrasion can cause permanent vision problems, making it vital to get an eye exam as soon as possible. You will need to go to the emergency room if you’re experiencing severe pain and/or having difficulty seeing.
What Should You Do if Your Eye Gets Scratched?
Avoid Touching or Rubbing Your Eyes
Do your best not to touch your eyes or rub them if they have scratches. Rubbing can worsen the scrape or scratch on your eye. Don’t attempt to remove the foreign object from your eye using your fingers or any other objects, as this can cause the problem to get worse. It could be that the foreign object is already gone, and the scratch it caused is what’s making you feel like there’s something stuck in your eye.
Rinse Your Eyes With Clean Water or Saline Solution
You can try flushing out foreign objects from your eyes with clean water or saline solution. If you don’t have an eyecup for rinsing your affected eye, you can use a clean glass. Place the glass rim on the bone at the base of the eye sock, under the lower lid.
Blink and Pull Your Upper Eyelid Over Your Lower Lid
Another thing that can help remove debris from your eyes is blinking. You can also pull your upper eyelid over your lower eyelid. It will allow your lashes to remove foreign objects in your upper eyelids.
Don’t Wear Contact Lenses
It’s never a good idea to wear contact lenses if you have an injured eye. Remove your contacts immediately if your eye gets injured. Wearing contacts can halt the healing process of your eyes. It can even lead to further problems, such as eye infections.
Your eyes might still be sensitive to light as they heal. Wearing sunglasses will help provide relief against light sensitivity.
Don’t Apply Eye Drops for Redness
Don’t use eye drops that your doctor did not recommend. For instance, eye drops that relieve redness should not be used to treat a corneal abrasion as they can cause pain and won’t do anything to help your eyes heal.
How Long Does It Take to Heal?
If you experience symptoms of corneal abrasion, you should see your eye doctor as soon as possible. Experts don’t usually suggest emergency room treatment unless it is your last resort or the only available option. The optometrist will use a biomicroscope with a bright light source. They might stain your tear film and expose it to blue light to get a more accurate look at the scratch or abrasion. Your eye doctor will measure the size of the abrasion, determine how severe the injury is, and look for any foreign matter in the eye.
It usually takes a day or two for minor corneal scratches or abrasions to heal. Sometimes, a patch or bandage is placed on the eye to speed up healing and for comfort. Eye doctors typically prescribe an ointment or antibiotic eye drops for infection prevention. In some cases, they prescribe over-the-counter medications and artificial tears to help with pain and discomfort.
There are scenarios where a corneal abrasion does not heal properly or completely, resulting in corneal erosion. With this condition, symptoms may come and go over the span of several months or even years. The success of the treatment depends in large part on proper adherence to your doctor’s recommendations. If a living tissue, such as a tree branch or fingernail caused the injury, there’s a chance the patient might develop a fungal infection. If your eye injury recurs after it had seemed to heal, see your eye doctor immediately.
What Can You Do to Avoid Eye Scratches?
Did you know that 90% of eye injuries could have been prevented by wearing proper protective eyewear? In a survey by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, only 35% of respondents said they wear proper eye protection when doing repairs or maintenance at home. There’s even a lower percentage of people who said they wear eye protection while participating in sports. Make sure to ask your optician or eye doctor about the ideal eyewear for your activities or lifestyle.
The easiest way to avoid corneal abrasion or eye injuries is to wear protective eyewear when doing tasks that can potentially harm your eyes. It’s essential to wear sports goggles when participating in sports that involve high-speed objects like badminton, baseball, soccer and racquetball. Keeping trees surrounding your home trimmed also helps, especially in high-traffic areas.