brand logo
Find a Location

Scratched Eye? Here’s What You Need to Know about Corneal Abrasions

If you've injured your eye, it may be a corneal abrasion. Let's discuss symptoms, prevention and treatment.

A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the clear outer layer that covers your eye’s iris and pupil. Also referred to as a scratched cornea or scratched eye, this is one of the most common eye injuries, often causing discomfort, impaired vision, and increased risk of eye infections. If you suspect you may have a corneal abrasion, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

What causes corneal abrasions?

A scratch on your eye can happen for many reasons. You may get a corneal abrasion if you:

  • Are poked or hit in the eye with a finger or object

  • Get dirt, sand, sawdust, or other material trapped under your eyelid

  • Get chemicals in your eye

  • Rub your eye too hard

  • Use contact lenses that are dirty or that fit poorly

  • Wear contact lenses for too long

  • Contract an eye infection

What are the symptoms?

If you get a scratch on your eye, you might not feel it right away. Scratched cornea symptoms include pain that doesn’t improve when you shut your eye, and pain that increases when you open or close your eye. Light sensitivity is often present, resulting in a stinging, burning sensation when the eye is exposed to light. Tearing, redness, and blurred vision are also common symptoms of a corneal abrasion.

How can I prevent scratched corneas?

There are several things you can do to reduce your chances of getting a scratched cornea. Always wear appropriate eye protection when using equipment or chemicals, and when playing certain sports. If you wear contact lenses, ensure that your lenses are the right fit for your eye, and that you always wear clean lenses. Ask your eye doctor or health care provider how long you can safely wear your contacts each day.

If you get something in your eye, rubbing it can cause a scratch. When this occurs, resist the urge to rub your eye. Instead, try blinking several times. Then, gently pull your upper eyelid over the lower one. Finally, carefully rinse your eye using clean water until the object is removed.

If there is something stuck on the surface of your eye and rinsing doesn’t get rid of it, don’t try to remove it yourself. Instead, visit your eye doctor, emergency room, or an urgent care facility like Physicians Immediate Care to have the object removed safely by a physician.

How are scratched corneas treated?

If you think you may have a corneal abrasion, the skilled health care providers at WellNow can offer a full eye examination. Each of our clinics is equipped with a special instrument called a slit lamp, which consists of a microscope paired with a bright light that allows physicians to examine the front and internal structures of the eye. This non-invasive tool is common at ophthalmologist offices and allows our health care providers to effectively diagnose and treat conditions affecting the eyes.

If an abrasion is found, your medical provider will numb the area to relieve the pain. He or she will also prescribe antibiotic eye drops and instruct you on how to use them to help prevent infection.

While your eye heals, avoid rubbing your eye, and avoid wearing contacts until your physician advises you that it’s safe. You can wear sunglasses or an eye patch to avoid pain and discomfort caused by light, especially when outdoors.

Minor abrasions usually heal within three days, although more severe scratches may take longer to heal. With proper treatment, a minor corneal abrasion should heal fully without causing any permanent damage. More severe scratches, however, can cause complications. If you have any unusual symptoms or a return of pain after your eye appears to have healed, follow up with your physician or eye doctor.

Where can I find a clinic?

WellNow’s skilled health care team is ready to help, with more than 40 urgent care clinics in the Midwest and Northeast. Find a location near you for extended-hour care, 7 days a week.