Corneal Erosions (Scratched Cornea)

What is the cornea?

The cornea is the clear front window of the eye. It covers the colored portion of the eye much like a watch crystal covers the face of a watch. The outermost layer of the cornea is called the corneal epithelium.

What is a corneal erosion or abrasion?

A corneal erosion or abrasion refers to a scratch or injury of the corneal epithelium. These painful abrasions occur quite commonly from contact lenses, a baby's fingernail, tree limbs, bushes, or vigorous rubbing of the eye. Corneal disease can also be a contributing factor.

How is this condition treated?

The most common treatment is to patch the eye tightly. This allows the damaged epithelium to heal. Patching also reduces the pain by preventing the blinking eyelid from irritating the affected area. Since both eyes move together and the eye is most painful when it moves, it is often helpful to rest the other eye as well.

An antibiotic may be prescribed to prevent infection. Anesthetic drops can relieve pain and facilitate examination but may keep the eye from healing properly if used repeatedly.

Occasionally, long after an abrasion has healed, it recurs spontaneously, often upon awakening in the morning. Recurrent corneal erosions often require repeat patching or the use of ointments at bedtime. Sometimes a soft or bandage-type contact lens is used to facilitate healing.

What are the possible complications?

If bacteria get into the tissues under the protective corneal epithelium, infection or a corneal ulcer can occur. These complications can be very serious and cause loss of vision.

In the majority of cases, corneal erosion will heal completely. But proper care by you and your ophthalmologist is necessary to help prevent serious consequences.

What is the usual outcome?

A corneal erosion or abrasion usually heals within a week. It is important not to rub your eye while it is healing. The new epithelium cells are fragile and can easily be rubbed off. When this occurs, the pain returns and repatching is necessary.

Why are regular medical eye examinations important for everyone?

Eye disease can occurs at any age. Many eye diseases do not cause symptoms until the disease has done damage. Since most blindness is preventable if diagnosed and treated early, regular medical examinations by an ophthalmologist are very important. Why an ophthalmologist? Because an ophthalmologist (MD or osteopath) provides total eye care: medical, surgical and optical.