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Corneal Abrasions and Erosion

What is the cornea?

The cornea is the clear front window of the eye.  It covers the iris (colored portion of the eye) and the round pupil, much like a watch crystal covers the face of a watch.  The cornea is composed of five layers.  The outermost layer is call the epithelium.

What is a corneal abrasion?

A corneal abrasion an injury (a scratch, scrape or cut) to the epithelium.  Abrasions are commonly caused by fingernail scratches, paper cuts, mascara brushes, scrapes from tree or bush branches and rubbing of the eye.  Some eye condition, such as dry eye, increase the chance of an abrasion.  You may experience the following symptoms with corneal abrasion:

  • the feeling of having something in your eye;
  • pain and soreness of the eye;
  • redness of the eye
  • sensitivity to light;
  • tearing;
  • blurred vision.

To detect an abrasion on the cornea, your doctor will use a special drop called fluorescein (pronounced FLOR-uh-seen) to illuminate the injury.

A corneal abrasion is simply a scratch in the outer layer of the cornea

A corneal abrasion is simply a scratch in
the outer layer of the cornea

How is a corneal abrasion treated?

Treatment may include the following:

  • patching the injured eye to prevent eyelid from blinking from irritating the injury;
  • applying lubricating eye drops or ointment to the eye to form a soothing layer between the eyelid and the abrasion;
  • using antibiotics to prevent infection;
  • dilating (widening) the pupil to relieve pain;
  • wearing a special contact lens to help healing.

Minor abrasions usually heal within a day to two; larger abrasions usually take about a week.  It is important not to rub the eye while it is healing.  Do not wear your regular contact lenses while the eye is healing; ask your ophthalmologist when you may start wearing your lenses again.

What is corneal erosion?

Corneal erosion is a wearing away of the epithelium layer of the cornea, often at the site of an earlier abrasion.  It may occur spontaneously, often after awakening in the morning. Erosion may also occur in dry eyes.  Symptoms are similar to those of a corneal abrasion:  the feeling of something in your eye, pain and soreness of the eye, redness of the eye, sensitivity to light, tearing and blurred vision.

How is corneal erosion treated?

Treatment is similar to that for corneal abrasion.  If the corneal erosion keeps occurring, further treatment may be needed including:

  • use of a special contact lens to reduce pain and encourage healing;
  • gentle removal of the damaged epithelium;
  • removal of a small layer of corneal cells using a laser;
  • performing a procedure called anterior stromal puncture, which involves making tiny holes on the surface of the cornea to promote stronger attachments between the top layer of corneal cells and the layer of the cornea underneath.

How can corneal abrasion and erosion be prevented?

  • Your doctor will examine your eyes with a magnifying instrument

    Your doctor will examine your eyes with a magnifying instrument

    use proper eyewear when using power tools, mowing the lawn and performing other yard work, and playing sports.

  • regularly clip your infant’s and young child’s fingernails.
  • follow your instructions on how to care for and wear your contact lenses.Courtesy of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.  Reprinted with permission of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.  Copyright protected.  All rights reserved.  Users of this website may reproduce one (1) copy of this for their own personal, noncommercial use.  All Internet, web or electronic posting or transmission is not permitted.