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Advice about corneal abrasions

A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the cornea, which is the outermost layer of the eye. The cornea has a vast supply of nerves making it very sensitive to injury.

A corneal abrasion can be caused by anything scratching the front of the eye. For example:

  • a fingernail scratch
  • a foreign body eg a twig
  • a dust particle stuck to the inside of the eyelid

You can develop the following signs and symptoms:

  • painful eye
  • blurring of vision
  • redness
  • gritty eye
  • photophobia (pain and watering when exposed to bright lights)
  • headache

A corneal abrasion usually heals in two days. As the abrasion heals, you should feel less pain. You can use over-the-counter pain relief such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.

You should avoid rubbing or touching your eye. If you wear contact lenses, avoid using them until the corneal abrasion fully heals.

In some cases, a corneal abrasion can become infected and an antibiotic ointment or eye drops may be prescribed for a few days.

When to come to the Emergency Department with a corneal abrasion

You should visit your local Emergency Department (A&E) if you experience
any of the following:

  • change in vision or increased pain in the eye
  • any discharge from the eye
  • swelling or inflammation around the eye
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