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What is a corneal abrasion? — A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the cornea. The cornea is the clear tissue that covers the colored part of the eye (figure 1).
What causes a corneal abrasion? — A corneal abrasion can happen when something scratches the eye or gets stuck under the eyelid. Common things that can scratch a person's eye include fingernails, animal paws, branches, or pieces of paper. Tiny pieces of rust, wood, glass, plastic, or other objects that can get stuck under the eyelid can also cause a corneal abrasion.
You can also get a corneal abrasion from wearing contact lenses. This is more likely if you:
●Wear contacts that don't fit well
●Wear contacts longer than you should, such as overnight
●Don't clean your contacts well
What are the symptoms of a corneal abrasion? — Common symptoms of a corneal abrasion are:
●Feeling like you have a speck of sand in your eye
●Eye pain that is so bad you cannot work, drive, or sleep
●Teary, watery eyes
●Not wanting to open the eye
●Being very uncomfortable looking at bright lights
Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better? — If you think that you have something in your eye, like an eyelash, you can try to remove it. But be careful not to irritate your eye. You can also pull your upper eyelid over your lower eyelid to try to brush away the object. Do not rub or press on it. Blink a few times to see if you can remove anything that might be in your eye.
If that doesn't work, rinse your eye with water once or twice. But rinsing more than a few times can make the problem worse.
Should I see a doctor or nurse? — See your doctor or nurse right away if you have the symptoms above and your eye still hurts a lot after you've tried rinsing it.
While waiting to see the doctor, you might feel better if you sit quietly in a darkened room with your eyes closed.
Is there a test for a corneal abrasion? — Yes. Your doctor will do an eye exam. As part of the exam, the doctor will put a small drop of a special yellow dye in your eye. The dye helps the doctor see whether the cornea has been scratched. They will also look under your upper eyelid to check if anything is stuck there.
How is a corneal abrasion treated? — Your doctor can treat your corneal abrasion with eye ointments or drops. Some ointments and drops help prevent infections. Others help ease pain. The doctor might also give you pills to help with your pain.
If the scratch on your cornea is large and not caused by contacts, the doctor might tape a gauze patch over your eye. This helps keep your eye closed, which helps it feel better. You should not use a fabric patch ("pirate's patch") in place of gauze because it will not keep your eye closed. Most corneal abrasions heal in a few days.
Do not wear contacts until your eye has healed.
Can corneal abrasions be prevented? — To lower your chances of getting a corneal abrasion, you can:
●Wear safety goggles when you work with machines that cut wood, metal, or other materials.
●Avoid wearing your contact lenses for longer than directed.
●Make sure that your contact lenses fit well.
●Keep your contact lenses clean.
What problems should I watch for? — Call for advice if:
●You notice a change in your eyesight.
●Your eye pain gets worse.
●You still have eye pain or are bothered by bright lights after a few days.
●You have signs of infection – These include:
•Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher and chills
•Swelling, redness, warmth, or pain around the eye
•Drainage from the eye
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