A scratch on the cornea (the clear window at the front of the eye).
Corneal abrasion is a common condition and can occur at any age from early childhood through to adulthood.
A corneal abrasion is the result of trauma to the front surface of the eye resulting in a scrape of the surface layer of the cornea. Common causes of such trauma include a piece of grit or other foreign body under the eyelid. An infants finger nail is a common cause of corneal abrasion. Other common causes include twigs from low lying branches and garden canes.
A corneal abrasion results in pain and a foreign body sensation from the affected eye together with sensitivity to light. There is redness and excessive watering of the eye.
Complications of disorder
Later complications of a corneal abrasion can include a recurrent corneal erosion. This is repeated breakdown of small areas of the surface of the cornea. The symptoms are as for a corneal abrasion but typically occur on waking during the night or first thing in the morning and settle during the day.
Rarely a corneal abrasion which is left untreated maybe complicated by a secondary infection of the cornea (infected corneal ulcer or abscess).
The diagnosis of corneal abrasion is made by clinical examination of the eye by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor). The eye is examined to ensure there is no remaining foreign body on the surface of the eye or retained under the eye lids and that no infection of the cornea of the eye has developed.
An antibiotic ointment is applied to the surface of the eye to prevent secondary infection of the scratched surface of the eye. A drop may be applied to temporarily dilate the pupil of the eye. This relieves the spasm of the muscles within the eye reducing the pain and discomfort associated with the corneal abrasion. A firm pad may be applied to close the eyelids and prevent blinking for a period of 24 hours. After the pad is removed antibiotic drops should be used until the surface of the eye has completely healed (usually after 2-5 days). A lubricating ointment may be used at night for a minimum of 2 weeks after the corneal abrasion is healed to reduce the possibility of developing a recurrent corneal erosion.
A corneal abrasion will normally heal within 24-72 hours if the treatment is followed correctly. The vision will return to normal and will not be affected in the long term. A minority of cases of corneal abrasion will go on to develop a recurrent corneal erosion requiring further treatment.
Last Editorial Review: 18/1/2010