Symptoms and Signs of Corneal Abrasion

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 8/31/2021

Doctor's Notes on Corneal Abrasion

A corneal abrasion is a common eye injury involving a painful scrape or scratch of the surface of cornea, the transparent window covering the eye’s iris and pupil. There are many nerve endings just under the surface of the cornea so any injury of the cornea can be painful. Any type of eye injury may result in a corneal abrasion. Some causes of corneal abrasions include something hitting the eye, foreign bodies in the eye, rubbing the eyes too much, wearing contact lenses longer than recommended, eye infections, and exposure of unprotected eyed to ultraviolet light.

Symptoms of corneal abrasion may include

  • feeling there is something in your eye (this feeling may occur several hours after an injury),
  • eye tearing,
  • blurred vision or other vision problems,
  • eye pain,
  • sensitivity to bright light, and
  • spasm of the muscles surrounding the eye that causes squinting.

Most of the time corneal abrasions affect only one eye, except in cases of chemical or ultraviolet light burns

What Is the Treatment for a Corneal Abrasion?

Treatment for a corneal abrasion in cases of minor irritation, such as dust or dirt getting in your eye, may involve washing out the foreign object from your eye with water in a household sink or shower. Over-the-counter artificial tears or lubricants may improve the discomfort in your eye and help flush out minor small irritants.

For more serious eye injuries and corneal abrasions, seek medical care. The doctor will assess the severity of the abrasion and determine if any foreign material is still attached to the eye.  After diagnosing the corneal abrasion and removing the foreign material, the treatment of a corneal abrasion may include the following:

  • Antibiotic drops or ointments for infection or infection prevention, such as:
  • Cycloplegic eye drops to stop muscular spasm and decrease discomfort
  • Anesthetic eye drops may be used for a short time (less than 24 hours) to eliminate pain
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), may be helpful
  • Wearing dark glasses or staying in dark rooms may help ease discomfort
  • Discontinue use of contact lenses for at least 1 week
  • Close follow up with an ophthalmologist is usually suggested

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.