Corneal Erosions or Abrasions
A corneal erosion or abrasion can occur when the cornea is scraped or injured. In these cases, there may be a loss of the corneal epithelium, the cornea's outer layer. These painful conditions quite commonly arise after a poke from a baby's fingernail or tree limbs and bushes, or vigorous rubbing of the eye. Sometimes they are caused by contact lenses. Corneal disease can also be a contributing factor.
Detecting an erosion or abrasion requires the use of fluorescein dye, which highlights the injured tissue by causing it to fluoresce.
- Blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
The symptoms described above may not necessarily mean that you have a corneal erosion or abrasion. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor for a complete exam.
The most common treatment is to patch the eye tightly. This allows the damaged corneal epithelium to heal. Patching the eye 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 recommended to prevent infection. Anesthetic drops can relieve pain and facilitate examination but may keep the eye from healing properly if used repeatedly. Long after an abrasion has healed it may spontaneously recur, and is often noticeable 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. Occasionally, treatment of the corneal surface with minor surgery is necessary to prevent recurrences.
A corneal erosion or abrasion usually heals within a week. It is important not to rub your eye during the healing process. The new epithelial cells are fragile and can easily be rubbed off. When this occurs, the pain returns and repatching is necessary.
If bacteria get into the tissues under the protective corneal epithelium, infection or a corneal ulcer can result. These complications can be very serious and cause loss of vision when they occur. Proper care by you and your ophthalmologist is necessary to help prevent such serious consequences.
For more information, see the Cornea & External Disease, Cataract & Refractive Surgery Clinic and the complete Clinic Services listing of the U-M Kellogg Eye Center.