A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the eye’s cornea. The cornea is the clear, protective covering over the iris, which is the colored part of the eye, and the pupil, the black circle in the middle of the eye. It’s important both for vision and for protecting the eye. If you poke your eye or if something gets trapped under your eyelid — such as dirt or sand — your cornea may become scratched. When it does, it can cause significant pain and discomfort.
If you get something in your eye, do not rub it. Try flushing it out with water or seek help from a doctor.
What causes a corneal abrasion?
Many situations can cause a corneal abrasion, including:
- Being poked in the eye, for instance by a fingernail, plant, or makeup brush.
- Dirt, sand, sawdust, ash, or some other foreign matter blowing into your eye and getting caught under the eyelid.
- Chemical burns.
- Aggressively rubbing your eye.
- Poor fitting or dirty contact lenses.
- Certain types of eye infections.
- Not protecting the eyes during surgery while under general anesthesia. If your eyes are not closed during surgery, the cornea can dry out, making you more prone to corneal abrasion.
Symptoms of a corneal abrasion do not always happen immediately. As a result, it’s often hard to know what caused it.
What should be done when something gets in your eye?
Often, the first reaction to something getting in your eye is to want to rub it. But don’t. Rubbing can cause an abrasion. Here are some safer ways to try to remove foreign matter from your eye:
- Blink your eye several times.
- Pull your upper eyelid over the lower eyelid.
- Gently rinse your eye out with clean water or a saline solution. But do not rub the eye while rinsing it.
And do not try to remove anything that is over the cornea — the colored or black part of your eye — yourself. Only a doctor should do this.
If you still feel like something is caught in your eye, see an eye doctor as soon as possible, or go to the emergency room. The eye doctor will examine your eye and use a special eye stain to better see the surface of the cornea. If something is on the cornea, the doctor can safely remove it.
What are the symptoms of corneal abrasion?
Once you’ve had a corneal abrasion, you’re not likely to forget the unrelenting pain and discomfort it can cause. Symptoms of corneal abrasion may include:
- Feeling like you have sand or grit in your eye
- Eye pain, especially when opening or closing your eye
- Tearing and redness
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision or loss of vision