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Corneal Abrasion

One of the most common injuries to the eye is an abrasion. In this condition, the surface layer of the eye (epithelium) is removed by items such as baby’s fingernails, tree limbs, bushes and the like.

Abrasions are very painful. They cause excessive tearing, redness, blurred vision and light sensitivity. These usually heal in a short period of time. A good night’s sleep is the cure is most instances.

Often an antibiotic is instilled into the eye because an abrasion invites infection. Abrasions covering small areas heal rapidly; those covering more than one-third of the cornea may take an extra day or two to completely cover over again.

In the office, a local anesthetic is instilled into the eye for temporary relief and for ease in making a reasonable examination of the injury. (Repeated use of anesthetic can harm the eye and is therefore not used in the treatment of abrasions.) Permanent loss of vision is very rare with superficial abrasions, however, it may take several weeks for all the blurriness to resolve.

It is important to not rub the eyes during the healing phase. The new cells have poor connections to the underlying tissue and can easily be rubbed off. When this occurs, the pain returns and repatching is necessary.

Occasionally, long after an abrasion has healed it recurs spontaneously, often upon awakening in the morning. This is called a recurrent erosion and represents an area of the epithelium that is not “glued” down well to the deeper parts of the cornea. The treatment is similar to that for the abrasion. Sometimes the surface of the cornea is treated with a special instrument in order to help form better connections between the corneal layers. Extended use of bedtime ointments or lubricants may also help in preventing recurrent erosions.