A large part of your eyeball is covered in a socket of bone known as the orbital bone, which provides protection to the inner part of your eye. Unfortunately, it cannot protect the outer part of your eye that faces out. This protruding part has a layer of clear tissue called the cornea, which helps your eye to focus and protects other parts of your eye, such as the pupil and the iris.
Sometimes, you will have a scrape or scratch on the cornea due to any reason. This condition is known as corneal abrasion and can affect your eyesight if the scar is deep. The condition is quite common in kids, and usually heals on its own. It's still important to know what to do and exactly when to see your doctor to prevent corneal damage.
What Causes Corneal Abrasion?
Minor injuries may happen at any time, but still, scratches on the cornea will cause serious pain. That's mainly due to high sensitivity of the cornea. This will lead to watery eyes and you will have trouble opening it at first. Many things can lead to corneal abrasion. For instance:
Small Particles in the Eye
The orbital bone protects most of your eye, and the eyelashes and eyelids also help maintain the defense system. If something enters your eye, it could damage the cornea. It could be anything, including sand, dust, hay, bugs, wood shavings, pieces of papers or anything else.
The moment a particle enters your eye and lands on your cornea, your eye will release tears to wash it away. Sometimes, a foreign particle doesn't go away, and even if it does, it leaves a cut or scratch on the surface of your cornea, leading to corneal abrasion. Improper use of lenses, chemical irritants, and bright lights can also create issues.
People who work with chemicals often end up hurting their cornea. The improper use of household cleaning products like bleach and oven cleaner may also cause a burn to your cornea. The scratched corneamay also be the outcome of alkaline substances such as plaster dust.
You are more likely to experience a corneal injury if you:
- Are overly exposed to artificial UV light or sunlight for extended hours
- Have overused your contact lenses and they don't fit well
- Have dry eyes
- Work in a dirty or dusty environment
If your work involves hammering metal on metal, you may fail to prevent high-speed particles from entering your eye and damaging your cornea.
What Symptoms Will Corneal Abrasion Have?
Corneal abrasion will affect the functionality of the cornea, so you will notice issues with your vision. Things will become rather blurry and you will find it difficult to focus. A stinging or burning pain is also common in corneal abrasion.
Other symptoms include the following:
- Sensitivity to light
- Bloodshot or red eyes
- Swelling on eyelids
- Increased tears with watery eyes
- Foreign-body sensation
What to Do If You Have Corneal Abrasion?
Here's what you can do if you have corneal abrasion:
- Rinse your eye well with a saline solution. For this purpose, you can use a clean drinking glass or an eyecup. You may also consider going to a work site eye-rinse station.
- Keep blinking to produce more water and help wash away the foreign particle.
- Try to pull your upper eyelid over your lower eyelid to help wash out the particle. The lashes of your lower eyelid may also help brush away the object that's under your upper eyelid.
Knowing what to do when you have corneal abrasion is important, but it is also important to learn what will make your injury worse. For instance:
- You should avoid doing anything if the particle seems embedded in your eyeball.
- Avoid rubbing your eye after a corneal injury.
- Avoid using tweezers, cotton swabs or other instruments to remove a particle.
- Avoid wearing contact lenses while you're dealing with an injury.
When to Seek Medical Help
Most corneal injuries will heal in a couple of days, but you may have to consult your doctor if pain or swelling doesn't go away in a few days. You should also go see your doctor if you feel something 'invisible' is in your eye. It is important to ask your doctor to examine your cornea if you can see a small particle or a splinter in your eye. A visit to an eye specialist becomes necessary when your eye becomes extremely sensitive to bright light.
How to Prevent Corneal Abrasion
To avoid dealing with pain and swelling, it is better to take some steps and avoid getting a corneal injury in the first place.
- Always wear safety gear, such as safety goggles when using power tools or handling chemicals.
- Always wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from ultraviolet light.
- Always practice care when working with household cleaners, such as oven and drain cleaners.
- Always keep your fingernails trimmed and do the same for your kids to avoid an eye injury.
- Always pay attention to trimming low-hanging tree branches to avoid accidents.
- Always practice care when inserting contact lenses in your eyes. Clean them properly before use.
- Never sleep while wearing your contact lenses.