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Corneal Abrasions

What is a corneal abrasion?

A corneal abrasion is a scratch or scrape injury to the cornea, which is the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye. This is a very common occurrence in children.

What causes a corneal abrasion?

There are many things that can cause an abrasion to the cornea. The more common causes include the following:

  • Foreign bodies in the eye (such as dirt, pebbles, insects)

  • Scratch from a toy or fingernail

  • Contact lenses that may be improperly fitted or maintained in older children

When these objects have contact with the surface of the eye, a small abrasion can occur.

What are the symptoms of a corneal abrasion?

The following are the most common symptoms of a corneal abrasion. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain and redness in the eye

  • Tearing of that eye

  • Pain when the child looks at a light

  • Excessive blinking in the affected eye

  • A younger child may hold that eye shut

The symptoms of a corneal abrasion any resemble other eye conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.

How is a corneal abrasion diagnosed?

Diagnosis is usually made based on a complete medical history and physical examination of your child's eye. Local anesthetic drops may be placed in the eye in order to examine the child. In addition, your child's doctor may use a fluorescein stain to help confirm the diagnosis. This is done by placing a small amount of a dye in the child's eye. The stain does not hurt the child. A special light is then used to look at the surface of the cornea, and any abrasion or scratch can be seen.

Treatment for corneal abrasion

Specific treatment for a corneal abrasion will be determined by your child's doctor based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the injury

  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the injury

  • Your opinion or preference

Most corneal abrasions heal quickly and do not cause any permanent damage to the eye. Treatment may include:

  • If a foreign body is seen in the eye, it may be removed with a small cotton applicator, or by washing the eye out with a saline solution.

  • Antibiotic eye drops or ointment or steroid eye drops may be placed in the eye.

  • A patch over the eye may be used to help decrease your child's level of discomfort. A patch is usually required for 12 to 24 hours following a corneal abrasion. 

  • Close follow-up with your child's doctor is needed to assure that the abrasion heals completely.

  • Severe abrasions or cuts into the cornea may be managed by an eye specialist because of the increased risk of damage to the eye.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bogus, William J., OD, FAAO
Online Medical Reviewer: Fincannon, Joy, RN, MN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/24/2013
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