CHOC Children's
EYE CARE :: Eye Trauma

Corneal Abrasions

What is a corneal abrasion?

A corneal abrasion is a scratch or superficial injury to the cornea, the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye.

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 in older children (often incurred at the time of placement or removal)

What are the symptoms of a corneal abrasion?

Symptoms may include:

  • pain and redness of the eye
  • tearing
  • pain when the child looks at a light
  • excessive blinking in the affected eye
  • a younger child may hold the eye shut

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

How is a corneal abrasion diagnosed?

Diagnosis is usually made based on a 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 physician 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 harm the cornea. A blue light is then used to look at the surface of the cornea, and any abrasion or scratch can be seen.

Treatment for corneal abrasion:

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.
  • An antibiotic ointment may be placed in the eye.
  • Close follow-up with your child's physician is essential to assure that the abrasion heals completely.

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It is important to remember the health information found on this website is for reference only not intended to replace the advice and guidance of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.

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