Corneal abrasion (scratch): First aid
Medically reviewed on January 30, 2018
A corneal abrasion is a superficial scratch on the clear, protective "window" at the front of your eye (cornea). Your cornea can be scratched by contact with dust, dirt, sand, wood shavings, metal particles, contact lenses or even the edge of a piece of paper. Corneal abrasions caused by plant matter (such as a pine needle) usually require special attention as they can cause a delayed inflammation inside the eye (iritis).
Signs and symptoms of corneal abrasion include:
- A gritty feeling in the eye
- Sensitivity to the light
In case of corneal abrasion, seek prompt medical attention. Left untreated, it could become infected and result in a corneal ulcer. Immediate steps you can take for a corneal abrasion are to:
- Rinse your eye with clean water or a saline solution. You can use an eyecup or a small, clean drinking glass positioned with its rim resting on the bone at the base of your eye socket. If you have quick access to a work site eye-rinse station, use it. Rinsing the eye may wash out a foreign object.
- Blink several times. This may remove small particles.
- Pull the upper eyelid over the lower eyelid. This may cause your eye to tear, which may help wash out the particle. Or it may cause the lashes of your lower eyelid to brush away an object from under your upper eyelid.
Use the following pointers to avoid making the injury worse:
- Don't try to remove an object that is embedded in your eyeball or makes it difficult to close your eye.
- Don't rub your eye after an injury.
- Don't touch your eyeball with cotton swabs, tweezers or other instruments.
- If you use contact lenses, don't wear them while your eye is healing.
Most corneal abrasions heal in a day or two.