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Corneal Abrasions

Corneal Abrasions and Recurrent Erosions

One of the most common injuries of the eye is an abrasion. In this condition the surface layer of the eye (epithelium) is removed by such dangerous intruders as baby's fingernails, tree limbs, or bushes. Abrasions are very painful. They also cause excessive tearing, redness and blurred vision.

These usually heal in a few days. A good nights sleep is curative in most instances. Treatment consists of a tight patch to keep the lids from moving and pain relievers as needed for comfort. Often an antibiotic is instilled into the eye because an abrasion invites infection. Abrasions covering small areas heal rapidly. Those covering more than a third of the cornea may take a day or two to completely cover over again.

In the office a local anesthetic is instilled into the eye for temporary relief and for ease in making a reasonable examination of the injury. (Repeated use of anesthetic can harm the eye and is, therefore, not used in the treatment of abrasions.)

Permanent loss of vision is very rare with superficial abrasions. It may take several weeks for all the blurriness to resolve.

It is important to not rub the eyes during the healing phase. The new cells have poor connections to the underlying tissue and can easily be rubbed off. When this occurs, the pain returns and repatching is necessary.

Occasionally, long after an abrasion has healed it recurs spontaneously, often upon awakening in the morning. This is called a recurrent erosion and represents an area of epithelium that is not "glued" down well to the deeper parts of the cornea.

The treatment is similar to that for abrasion. And a patch is helpful. Bedtime ointments and other forms of lubrication are also helpful in preventing this troublesome complication. Sometimes a bandage contact lens is used in treating recurrent erosions.