Symptoms of a scratched cornea

Written by john lindell
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Symptoms of a scratched cornea
Most scratches on the cornea heal in 24 to 48 hours. (eye image by Stanisa Martinovic from Fotolia.com)

A scratched cornea is called a corneal abrasion in medical terms, and it can be very painful. A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the clear surface of the eye that covers the coloured portion of the organ known as the iris. A scratch on the cornea can potentially be very serious, but it helps that the cornea is the fastest-healing tissue in the human body.

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How Corneal Scratches Happen

A person can scratch the cornea in many ways. One common cause is when a tree branch hits a person in the face while in the woods for recreational or work purposes. Getting poked in the eye accidentally while playing with children or while engaging in sports is another. Something being blown into your eye or falling into your eyes--such as paint chips, a piece of wood, grains of sand or metal fragments--can result in a scratched cornea.

Symptoms of a Scratched Cornea

After the initial pain has worn off from whatever has injured your eye, you need to evaluate the damage. One symptom of a scratched cornea is feeling as if something is still in your eye, which could be a distinct possibility. The eyes will also be prone to producing tears and you may have blurred vision or even loss of vision in extreme cases. The eye will hurt if you try to look at bright lights and you may squint as well due to a sensitivity to light.

Seek Immediate Treatment

It is important to seek medical help for a scratched cornea, especially if it is from a work accident, such as metal chips from machinery flying into your eye, where the object may still be lodged in the cornea. Once at the emergency room, there are ways for a doctor to determine the damage. Eye drops that numb the eye can be used so the eye can be examined. A type of eye drop called fluorescein may be used. This eye drop is yellow, and once it is in your eye the doctor will use an instrument with a blue light that can reveal a scratched cornea.

Treatment of Scratched Cornea

Corneal abrasions are treated in various ways depending on their severity. Minor ones may be treated with artificial tears and simple painkillers such as Tylenol, with nothing else necessary. More serious examples of a scratched cornea can require treatments such as antibiotic eye drops and perhaps even steroidal drops to reduce swelling. Other drops can put a halt to light sensitivity and you may have to wear a patch over the eye while it heals to protect it. Some studies actually warn against the use of a patch, preferring to keep the eye open to the air as it heals.

How Long it Takes to Heal

In most cases, it shouldn't take longer than 24 to 48 hours for a scratched cornea to heal. The healing power of the corneal tissue is well-known. Even with a serious scratch, your doctor will expect it to be healed in short order. The doctor will more than likely want to see you back in the office in two days to make sure there are no complications and that healing is going well.

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