Signs You Might Have a Corneal Abrasion — And What to Do About It

August 27th, 2019

Corneal scratches are difficult to avoid, occur easily, and don’t always heal on their own. Here’s what you need to know about this common eye injury.

Corneal abrasions, or “scratches,” can occur from contact with metal particles to something as little as dust. Either way, it is important to know to about cornea conditions and treatment options.

The cornea, or the transparent layer on the front of the eye, is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. It’s no surprise that corneal scratches (also called corneal abrasions) are a highly common injury that can cause substantial discomfort.

Because the cornea is essential to focusing light, it’s immensely important to your vision. A scratched cornea has the potential to both disrupt your eyesight and make you more susceptible to infection. Here’s what you need to know about corneal abrasions to reduce your risk.

How Corneal Scratches Occur

Unfortunately, because the cornea is so delicate, almost anything that comes in contact with your eye can cause a scratch. In fact, the majority of corneal abrasions can’t be attributed to a specific event like getting poked or hit in the eye. Instead, most corneal scratches are caused by small particles like dust and sand that unknowingly sneak into the eye.

This makes it quite difficult to entirely prevent corneal scratches — not even contact lenses can guard your eyes against an abrasion. In fact, contact lenses themselves can cause a scratch if they’re damaged or if you wear them for too long. 

That said, there are certain risk factors for corneal scratches that you can work to avoid. For one, dry eyes increase your risk of corneal abrasions. Use gentle eye drops to lubricate your eyes if you often experience dryness. If you work or play in an environment with flying debris, always wear safety glasses or goggles.

In addition, you should avoid scratching or rubbing your eyes, especially if you feel that something may be stuck on the surface. While many people feel the impulse to do this, it only increases your risk of getting a scratch. Instead, rinse your eye out gently with water, a saline eye wash, or contact lens solution.

Treating a Scratched Eye


If you do get a scratched cornea, treatment differs depending on the wound’s severity and cause. Often, if the injury is minor, you can let the eye heal on its own while simply keeping it lubricated with drops. Talk to your eye doctor to see if he or she recommends antibiotic eye drops to be on the safe side and ward off infection. 

If your corneal abrasion is more severe, however, the injury will require more attention. Your eye doctor may prescribe a steroid to decrease inflammation and prevent scarring, a medication to relieve pain, and an antibiotic ointment to stop potential infection. These injuries usually take longer to heal, and they’re more likely to leave a scar — which may affect vision permanently if not addressed properly.

In addition, some deep corneal abrasions can eventually develop into a corneal ulcer if left untreated. Corneal ulcers can cause severe vision loss, so it’s vital that you address a corneal abrasion quickly and properly in order to avoid this complication.

If you believe you have a corneal abrasion, or if you’re interested in learning more about corneal scratch prevention, reach out to ICON Eyecare to schedule an appointment today. As Denver’s premier eye care choice, we’ll help you ensure that your vision returns to peak form as swiftly and safely as possible.