Eye abrasions are one of the most common injuries to the eye. When this occurs, the surface layer of the cornea (epithelium) is scratched, often by a fingernail, tree limb, or tool.
Abrasions are very painful. Other symptoms include excessive tearing, redness, blurred vision and light sensitivity. Treatment consists of antibiotic ointment and an eye patch or a bandage contact lens.
Small abrasions heal rapidly within one to two days, while those larger than one-third of the cornea may take several days to completely heal. It may take several weeks for the blurred vision to resolve.
It is important to not rub the eyes during the healing phase. The new cells take time to adhere well to the underlying tissue and can easily be rubbed off. When this occurs, the pain returns and repeat eye patching is necessary.
Sometimes, long after an abrasion has healed, a small area of it recurs spontaneously, often upon awakening in the morning. This is called a recurrent corneal erosion and represents an area of the epithelium that has not adhered well to the deeper parts of the cornea.
The treatment is similar to that for an initial abrasion. Sometimes the surface of the cornea is treated with a special instrument in order to help form better adhesions between the corneal layers. Extended use of bedtime ointments or lubricants may also help in preventing recurrent erosions.