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Corneal injury

Abrasion - corneal; Scratch - corneal; Eye pain - corneal

Corneal injury is a wound to the part of the eye known as the cornea. The cornea is the crystal clear (transparent) tissue that covers the front of the eye. It works with the lens of the eye to focus images on the retina.

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Cornea

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Corneal injury

Causes

Injuries to the cornea are common.

Injuries to the outer surface may be due to:

Infections may also damage the cornea.

You are more likely to develop a corneal injury if you:

High-speed particles, such as chips from hammering metal on metal, may get stuck in the surface of the cornea. Rarely, they may penetrate deeper into the eye.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

Exams and Tests

You will need to have a complete eye test. The health care provider may use eye drops called fluorescein dye to help look for injuries.

Tests may include:

Treatment

First aid for eye emergencies:

Anyone with severe eye pain needs to be seen in an emergency care center or examined by an ophthalmologist right away.

Treatment for corneal injuries may involve:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most of the time, injuries that affect only the surface of the cornea heal very quickly with treatment. The eye should be back to normal within 2 days.

Injuries that penetrate the cornea are much more serious. The outcome depends on the specific injury.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if the injury is not better after 2 days of treatment.

Prevention

Things you can do to prevent corneal injuries include:

Related Information

Corneal ulcers and infections
Retina

References

Fowler GC. Corneal abrasions and removal of corneal or conjunctival foreign bodies. In: Fowler GC, ed. Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 200.

Guluma K, Lee JE. Ophthalmology. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 61.

Knoop KJ, Dennis WR. Ophthalmologic procedures. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 62.

Rao NK, Goldstein MH. Acid and alkali burns. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 4.26.

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Review Date: 8/18/2020  

Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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