What to Do About a Scratched Eye

by Oct 28, 2019

Accidents can happen, but they are particularly scary when they involve the eye.  Eye injuries involving the cornea, or the very front part of the eye, are more common than you may think, and they can happen in many different ways.  Injuries such as foreign objects in the eye or chemical burns are considered ocular emergencies and need to addressed immediately by an eye care professional.  However, minor injuries like scratches to the corneal surface, also known as corneal abrasions, are less serious and typically heal quickly without complications.  While the best thing to do if you experience an eye injury or eye pain is to visit your optometrist, here is some additional information to know about corneal abrasions, including what to do if it happens to you.  


What is a Corneal Abrasion?

A corneal abrasion occurs when a small scratch affects the outermost surface of the cornea, known as the corneal epithelium.  These superficial scratches are one of the most common eye injuries to occur and can be caused by a wide variety of objects: fingernails, pet paws, and children’s toys are some of the more common culprits.  If something comes in contact with the front of the eye with enough power, it can potentially damage the corneal surface and result in an abrasion.  

Even tiny corneal abrasions can cause moderate or even severe discomfort; this is because the corneal surface is one of the most sensitive tissues in the body with many nerves and pain receptors.  Besides pain, other symptoms of corneal abrasions include redness, watering, and extreme light sensitivity. If the injury occurs in the middle of the eye, vision might be blurry as a result.  


How to Help a Scratched Eye

If you suspect that you have injured the front of your eye and have a resulting corneal abrasion, you should see your eye doctor as soon as possible.  It is important for the doctor to look at the eye and make sure the injury doesn’t extend deeper than the epithelium, and they will ensure that there is nothing lodged in the corneal tissue that would need to be removed.  After they assess the abrasion, a treatment plan is made based on size, location, and source of the injury. 

Some small corneal abrasions will quickly heal on their own, and may only need lubricating artificial tears to help improve comfort and quicken the healing process.  If the injury is particularly large or is affecting vision, an antibiotic drop may be required to prevent the simple scratch from turning into a more serious infection.  Occasionally a drop is placed in the eye that dilates the pupil for long periods of time; this works to calm down some of the pain receptors in the eye and improve comfort.  Sometimes a clear contact lens can be placed over the injury, which essentially works as a bandage to protect the corneal surface as the healing occurs. 

Of all the tissues in the body, the corneal epithelium is one of the quickest to heal.  Even if initial pain is severe, symptoms usually improve within a few days. Most cases are completely resolved in less than a week.  If a corneal abrasion happens to you, our eye doctor will want to monitor you regularly until the injury is completely healed.

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The optometrists and staff at  Nittany Eye Associates excel in the diagnosis and management of a corneal abrasion and scratched eye. Our State College eye doctors and optometrists put the health of you and your family first.  Call us at (814) 234-2015 or schedule an appointment online.  Our eye doctors in State College provide the highest quality eye exams and eye care services in the State College, Matilda, Spring Mills, Tyrone, and Lock Haven PA areas.



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