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5 Critical Steps For Caring For A Corneal Abrasion

Corneal abrasions, or a "scratched eye," are one of the most common types of eye injuries. Corneal abrasions can occur without warning, from things as simple as rubbing your eye the wrong way or a foreign object getting into the eye and moving across the cornea. How you treat a corneal abrasion after it occurs has a significant impact on the injury's ability to heal. Here are 5 critical steps for caring for a corneal abrasion. 

1. Resist the Urge to Rub Your Eye 

Although you may have the urge to rub your eye after an injury, it is very important that you don't. Rubbing your eye, even gently, can cause further damage if there is a particle or foreign object still in your eye. By rubbing, you may move the object over your cornea again and again, causing the scratch to become even deeper. 

2. Remove Your Contacts If You Wear Them 

If you wear contact lenses and feel like you have something in your eye or suspect you may have scratched your eye, remove your contacts as soon as possible. If you don't, there's a possibility that a foreign body can become stuck to the lens and can continue scratching the eye while you are wearing the lenses. Rinse your contacts with contact lens solution after removing them, and look for any visible damage or foreign bodies on the lenses. If the lenses are damaged or torn in any way, discard the lenses and open a fresh pair when you're ready to wear contacts again after your injury has healed. 

3. Rinse Your Eye With a Sterile Solution (Not Tap Water)

Rinsing your eye can be key to removing any foreign bodies that are present and scratching your cornea. However, what you rinse your eyes with is very important. Always rinse your eyes with sterile water or eye wash solution instead of tap water. There are many pathogens and bacteria that can be present in tap water, and your eye cannot protect itself from them after it has been scratched like it can when it is intact. One particular concern with tap water being used to wash injured eyes is acanthamoeba -- a free living organism that can cause a serious eye infection if introduced to an injured eye. 

4. Cover Your Eye

Once your eye has been rinsed with sterile water or eye wash solution, gently tape your eye closed or cover it with a patch. Keeping your eye closed will help prevent your eyelid from continuing to abrade your cornea, or from moving particles across your cornea that may still be present. 

5. Contact Your Ophthalmologist or Optometrist Immediately

If your pain or discomfort decreases significantly after removing your contacts or rinsing your eye with a sterile solution, you may not need to see a professional. However, if you are experiencing severe pain, light sensitivity, eye discharge, or are unable to open your eye, it is imperative that you contact a skilled ophthalmologist or an optometrist as soon as possible. Your eye doctor can examine your eye with a microscope, and will use a type of dye called fluorescein to highlight scratched areas on your cornea. He or she can prescribe pain relief and antibiotic drops that reduce the chance of getting a secondary infection from the abrasion. 

Your vision is precious. Protect your sight by taking the above steps after an eye injury. By working with an experienced eye doctor to heal your corneal abrasion, you can lessen your discomfort and get your vision back to normal as quickly as possible without potential serious complications.