Corneal Abrasion Treatment, Symptoms, Healing Times, and Causes
Corneal abrasion is exactly what it sounds like. It is abrasion or scratch of the cornea, but to get a fuller understanding of why this happens, we first need to explain the structure of the eye and why the cornea is so important here. The cornea is one of the most important parts that make up the human eye. The cornea acts like a shield to the eye, and it is one of the surfaces that allows the eye to see.
There are times, though, when this part of the eye can become damaged, and that can lead to a host of other complications. There is a huge list of reasons why this part can be damaged ranging from scratching it to foreign particles entering the eye and damaging it. We’ll go over all of this and more throughout this article and hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll learn why it can happen, how you can treat it, how to prevent it, and exactly how long it can take to fully heal.
What is a Corneal Abrasion?
A corneal abrasion is simply a scratch on the eye. It can happen for a variety of reasons but the end result of all those reasons is a scratch on the top most layer of the eye. The cornea has five distinct layers, and the abrasion may affect only the top layer or further down as well. The reason why corneal abrasions can be hard to deal with is because they happen on the clear layer of the eye, which means that they can be quite hard to detect. You can feel the immense pain, but when you go to look at your eye you probably won’t see the abrasion unless it’s a huge one. Even small abrasions that don’t expose the inner layers of the cornea can be very painful and affect vision.
One common misconception about corneal abrasions is that they have to have a visible trigger to cause them. For example, corneal abrasion can only happen if you’re doing a dangerous activity without protective eyewear, such as woodworking or metalworking, but it doesn’t have to be just that. Corneal abrasions can also happen through something as harmless as paper, contact lenses, or even your own finger. Baby fingernails are especially problematic! That is an important thing to keep in mind... even though you might not be doing anything dangerous, your eye can still get damaged. The reason why this is an important distinction is because a lot of people won’t go get treated until the abrasion is more serious because they feel that because they weren’t doing something dangerous they are safe from the effects that corneal abrasions can have.
That is a dangerous conclusion to arrive at and can affect how well your eye heals. The best course of action to take, if you believe that you have a corneal abrasion or scratched your eye, is to immediately go to an eye doctor and make sure that you don’t have any severe consequences because of the abrasion. They can give you the best course of treatment for healing properly.
Corneal abrasions can sometimes be hard to detect because, in minor cases, the symptoms that they present can be easy to ignore unless the situation gets worse. Diagnosing corneal abrasions is not an exact science unless you have the required equipment so take a look at these symptoms and make a decision for yourself whether the irritation that you have been feeling in your eye is part of a bigger problem. Below is a list of all the symptoms that you may feel when faced with a corneal abrasion:
A feeling of pain, especially when you open and close your eyes
Feeling like something is stuck in your eye, such as sand or dust and no matter what you do you can’t get it out
Excessive production of tears
Intense sensitivity to light, both natural and artificial
Redness in one or both of the eyes, especially around the area where the pain originates
Common headaches that won’t go away
Affected vision. This can include blurred vision, not being able to distinguish objects from afar or up close, and even losing visual effectiveness in the night.
As you can see there are a lot of symptoms that come with a corneal abrasion that may not warrant specialized care. Most people are liable to ignore a lot of these symptoms as they are not serious by themselves. All together, though, they can seriously ruin your day so go see a doctor and make sure that the pain in your eye isn’t part of a bigger problem. The pain is one of those fickle symptoms that needs to be described further just for the sake of clarity.
Corneal Abrasion Pain
The pain that you feel because of a corneal abrasion is nothing like you’ve felt before. It’s not intense or unbearable, but it is a very different kind of pain than we are used to. The reason why this pain is so strange is because it is felt on the inside of the body, a place that should not be affected by any environmental factors. It would be like something that literally gets under your skin. The skin protects your flesh and just like that, the cornea protects the inner part of the eye, keeping it safe from anything.
The pain can range from unbearable in some people to more annoying in others. Severe cases have a tendency to hurt a lot more, especially if there is a large area of abrasion rather than just a scratch. It is advised not to use self-prescribed pain medications even if they are the over-the-counter kind. Pain medication can make you complacent to the pain and deter you from getting any actual treatment. It is important to remember that pain is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong and needs to be taken care of immediately. So if you feel any unnatural and unfamiliar pain, don’t hesitate to visit a doctor, even if you know that nothing is wrong.
Corneal abrasions can occur because of a number of reasons and it can often be hard to determine what the exact reason was for the abrasion. Nevertheless, here are a few common causes of corneal abrasions so that you know what to watch out for.
Corneal Abrasions can happen because of the following reasons:
Getting any chemicals in your eyes
Rubbing your eyes too hard
Certain types of eye infections can also cause corneal abrasions
Wearing worn out or damaged contact lenses
Getting foreign particles such as ash, dust, dirt, sawdust, or even pollen in your eyes
Poking your eye with any object that can leave behind a cut or abrasion such as a pen, pencil, makeup brush, or even a fingernail
Playing any high-contact sports, or any physical activity that has high risk associated with it, without wearing the proper protective eyewear
The problem with listing down possible causes of corneal abrasions is that it sets a limit to what can cause corneal abrasion and what can’t. The basic principle that we are trying to explain that literally anything could be the cause of a corneal abrasion. Even a speck of sand can cause a corneal abrasion, especially if you rub your eyes. Most of the cases of corneal abrasions that present themselves aren’t caused by a major accident or something attacking your eye. Most cases that come forward are caused by small incidents that are easy to ignore. It can be something as simple as rubbing your eyes too hard so you can imagine why it’s so hard to list down all the possible causes for corneal abrasions.
One thing that deserves special mention is the disease called dry eyes. There exists a direct link between dry eyes and corneal abrasions, especially after waking up. People with dry eyes will know how dry the eyes can get during the night. When you wake up, dryness can cause the eyelids to stick to the top of the corneas. So when you open up your eyes forcefully after the night, the eyelids can quite literally tear away the uppermost layer of the cornea. That can lead to an extreme case of corneal abrasion and requires immediate attention, if you expect your eyes to heal up properly. If this continues to occur over time, it’s known as Recurrent Corneal Erosion. This whole thing can’t be avoided with contact lenses either. As contact lens users already know, it is highly inadvisable to wear contact lenses while sleeping.
Corneal Abrasion Treatment and Healing Time | How to Treat a Corneal Abrasion
The treatment of a corneal abrasion can vary depending on the severity of damage that has been done to the cornea. The smallest of cases can be treated with just time. If you have a minor abrasion that the doctor has identified as being non-serious then you can simply treat it with lubricating eye drops to keep the eyes moist. This will help protect against foreign elements and give your eyes the chance that they need in order to heal on their own. These types of cuts usually heal within a few days and leave behind no permanent damage.
That is not to say that antibiotics cannot be used just to ensure a speedy and complete recovery. These antibiotics usually take the form of topical ointments which need to be applied regularly in order to make sure that nothing goes awry. The treatment may also include a course of steroids that are used to reduce any inflammation that may have occurred because of infection. It might also include prescribed painkillers depending on the severity of the pain. If the abrasion is causing an extremely negative reaction to light then painkillers may also be prescribed in order to reduce the effects that light is having on your eyes.
If the case is more severe than there are other things, apart from the ones mentioned above, that might be included in the treatment. Severe cases include longer and deeper cuts and abrasions that occur near or in the center of the eye. Since these types of injuries have a chance to leave behind permanent damage, an additional bandage contact lens may be used to ensure a speedy recovery. Keep in mind, though, that these are no ordinary lenses. Wearing normal contact lenses when faced with a corneal abrasion can end up doing more harm than good.
Serious injuries such as these have a chance to impair vision so it is best to get those treated as soon as possible. If left unchecked the abrasion may not only significantly reduce your vision, it can also lead to corneal ulcers which are a real pain to deal with. These serious abrasions can take weeks to heal.
The above is all true if you go to a doctor. There are things that you can do before the appointment to make sure that your eye has the best possible chance for a speedy recovery. The steps that you should follow if you think you have a corneal abrasion can be classified into three.
The first step is making sure that your eye is clean and the cause for the abrasion has been removed. That is why you should first inspect the eye to see what is going on. If you notice any foreign particles trapped under your eyelids or around the eye then don’t rub them out. Instead, use a saline solution to wash them out so that you don’t irritate the eye and make the situation worse. It is important to use a saline solution because water, even bottled water, may contain bacteria and minerals that can harm the eye. Also keep the eyelid clean with a hypochlorous acid eyelid cleanser.
Once you’re sure that the eye is clean you can move onto the second step, which is making an appointment with an expert. This is entirely up to you but we highly recommend seeing a doctor even if the pain seems to subside.
After you’ve seen the expert and gone through the treatment that they have provided you, it is important to make sure that it never occurs again. That is why you should always wear safety eyewear if you work in an environment that is prone to having airborne particles around. You could also consider switching to glasses if you’re in contacts. If that doesn’t appeal to you, then make sure to follow all of the safety practices for your lenses. Don’t risk a serious injury like this just because of convenience.
As always, we would like to remind you that nothing beats an expert’s opinion so take heed from this article but ultimately rely on your doctor because they are well-equipped to guide you on the road to recovery.
Have you ever had a corneal abrasion? What treatment protocol did you use? Let us know in the comments below!