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Health Tip

Home :: Corneal Abrasion

Corneal Abrasions

What is a corneal abrasion?

Corneal abrasion injury describes an injury to the curved, transparent covering on the front of the eye. Often caused by a foreign body, a corneal abrasion is a scratch on the surface epithelium of the cornea. An abrasion or foreign body in the eye is the most common eye injury. With treatment, the prognosis is usually good.

Causes of corneal abrasion

A corneal abrasion usually results from a foreign body, such as a cinder or a piece of dust, dirt, or grit, that becomes embedded under the eyelid. Even if the foreign body is washed out by tears, it may still injure the cornea.

A small piece of metal that gets in the eyes of workers who don't wear protective glasses quickly forms an abrasion and then forms a rust ring on the cornea. Such abrasions also commonly occur in the eyes of people who fall asleep wearing hard contact lenses.

A corneal scratch produced by a fingernail, a piece of paper, or another organic substance may cause a persistent lesion. The epithelium doesn't always heal properly, and a recurrent corneal erosion may develop, with delayed effects more severe than those of the original injury.

Signs and symptoms of corneal abrasion

Typically, corneal abrasions produce redness, increased tearing, a sensation of "something in the eye" and, because the cornea is richly endowed with nerve endings from the trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve V), pain disproportionate to the size of the injury. A corneal abrasion may affect visual acuity, depending on the size and location of the injury. You may also notice that light hurts your eye. Some people get a headache when they have a corneal abrasion.

First aid home treatment for corneal abrasion


  • The first steps in treatment include ex­amining the eye and checking visual acuity. If the foreign object is visible, the eye can be irrigated with normal saline solution.
  • If the object is on an eyelid, try to gently flush it out with water. If that does not work, try touching a second cotton-tipped swab to the object to remove it.
  • If the object is on the eye, try gently rinsing the eye with water. It may help to use an eye dropper positioned above the outer corner of the eye. DO NOT touch the eye itself with the cotton swab.
  • If the eyeball has been injured, get medical help immediately.
  • Chemical burns may occur with acids or alkalis splashed in the eye. Many household chemicals are strong acids or alkalis. Drain cleaners and oven cleaners are particularly dangerous. If chemicals are splashed in the eye, the eye should be IMMEDIATELY flushed with tap water for 15 minutes, and the patient should then be rushed to the nearest emergency facility.

After following the above instructions, seek medical or doctor help immediately.

Prevention and special considerations tips

Take the following steps to help prevent corneal abrasions:

  • Safety goggles should be worn at all times when using hand or power tools, when using chemicals, during high impact sports, or in other situations where there is a potential for eye injury.
  • Use care when putting in contact lenses.
  • Cut infants' and young children's fingernails short.

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