A scratched cornea or corneal abrasion occurs when the outermost layer of the cornea, called the epithelium, is torn away from the underlying layers. A scratched cornea, or corneal abrasion, is one of the most common eye injuries we see at D’Ambrosio Eye Care. It is possible to get a corneal abrasion if you are poked in the eye with a finger, a tree branch, or from shards of glass in a car accident. The cornea has many nerve endings and is thus very sensitive, making a scratched cornea a rather painful experience. Fortunately, smaller corneal abrasions usually heal quite quickly, often within 24 hours. Larger corneal abrasions make take 2 or 3 days to fully heal. However, during the healing process, patients often experience tearing, redness, blurred vision and light sensitivity. Sometimes, we may need to treat a corneal abrasion by applying a thin soft bandage contact lens, or even a tight patch, to prevent the eyelids from moving over the damaged area. If you are more than a little uncomfortable it is also possible that we will prescribe a pain reliever tablet to be taken by mouth to make you more comfortable. Typically, we will also prescribe an antibiotic eye drop in order to prevent an infection.
As part of your examination in the office we will instill some anesthetic eye drops to ease the pain and make the exam more comfortable for you. However, we do not prescribe anesthetic eye drops for repeated use as they can actually harm the eye and lead to even further damage. While the larger, deeper abrasions can take a few extra days to heal, you should be aware that if you follow our instructions for treatment it is very unusual to have vision loss from a corneal abrasion alone. One note of caution is that it is important NOT to rub your eyes while they are healing from a scratched cornea as it takes time for the newly healed layer of cells to adhere firmly to the underlying layers of the cornea. This new layer of cells is a bit fragile and can be rubbed off if you are not careful.
About Recurrent Corneal Erosion
Sometimes, long after a corneal abrasion has healed, it can recur spontaneously, usually upon awakening in the morning. This is called Recurrent Corneal Erosion and represents an area of the epithelium that has not reconnected well to the deeper parts of the cornea.
The treatment is similar to that for the original abrasion. If the Recurrent Corneal Erosion continues to recur despite medical therapy, sometimes the surface of the cornea is treated with a procedure called Phototherapeutic Keratectomy using an Excimer Laser in order to help form better connections between the corneal layers. Extended use of lubricants and/or bedtime ointments may also help in preventing recurrent erosions.