Corneal abrasions are a common type of eye injury in kids. They happen
when something, like sand or dirt, gets into the eye.
Though sometimes painful, corneal abrasions usually aren't serious and most heal
within a few days. Long-term vision is rarely affected.
About Corneal Abrasions
The eyeball sits inside what's called the orbital bone. The orbital bone protects
the inner part of the eye, but it can't protect the part that faces out. This part
is covered by a clear, transparent tissue called the cornea. The cornea helps the
eye focus and protects other parts of the eye, like the iris (the colored part) and
the pupil (the black part that constricts in response to light). A corneal abrasion
is when something scratches, cuts, or brushes up against the cornea.
Corneal abrasions can be painful, but usually heal quickly and don't cause any
lasting problems. In rare cases, corneal abrasions can become infected and lead to
a serious condition called a corneal ulcer. That's why it's important to have a doctor
examine your child's eye if you think he or she might have a corneal abrasion.
The eye has other defenses besides the orbital bone. Eyelids and eyelashes work
to keep foreign particles out of eyes. When particles get through and land on the
cornea, tears help to wash them away. Sometimes, though, a foreign object contacts
the cornea in such a way that it scratches, cuts, or damages the surface.
Things that can damage the cornea include dust, sand, wood shavings, hay, sparks,
bugs, pieces of paper, and even fingernails. The cornea also can be damaged by chemical
irritants, improper use of contact lenses, bright lights, and reactions to things
like contact lens solutions and eye makeup.
Because they affect the way the cornea works, corneal abrasions can cause problems
with vision. Your child might complain of stinging or burning in the eye, of not being
able to see as well as usual, or of things appearing blurry.
Other symptoms can include:
sensitivity to light
red or bloodshot eyes
a watery eye and increased tears
the feeling of something being in the eye (foreign-body sensation)
If your child has any symptoms of a corneal abrasion, call your doctor. Corneal
abrasions are rarely serious, but they should be checked out. The doctor can determine
the extent of the abrasion and prescribe eye drops to help the healing process.
To diagnose a corneal abrasion, the doctor will examine the eye and ask questions
about the symptoms and what caused the abrasion. It's possible your child won't know
the exact cause, but probably will remember when the abrasion happened.
In some cases, the doctor will confirm a diagnosis of corneal abrasion by doing
a test on the eye. A fluid called fluorescein is placed on the surface of the eye,
then the doctor looks at the eye under a filtered light. Under the light, the fluorescein
causes any abrasion to glow a bright green color so that it's clearly visible.
Other tests the doctor might do include a standard ophthalmic exam and a slit lamp
examination of the eye. These tests are done to check the eye's vision and functioning.
If your child has a corneal abrasion, you'll want to have a doctor look at it as
soon as possible. In the meantime, take these steps and precautions:
Rinse your child's eye with clean water or a saline solution, or use an eye-rinse
station if one is available. Rinsing the eye will help to wash away whatever is irritating
Instruct your child to blink several times or pull the upper eyelid over the lower
one. The lower eyelash may be able to brush away something stuck to the underside
of the upper eyelid. Pulling on the eyelid also will make the eye produce tears, which
can help wash away foreign objects.
If there is something stuck in your child's eye, don't try to remove it. This
can cause further damage to the cornea.
Tell your child not to rub the eye, and don't touch the eye with anything like
a cotton swab or tweezers. This can make a corneal abrasion worse.
After examining your child's eye, the doctor might recommend treatments to help
the eye heal more quickly. The doctor also can safely remove any foreign object stuck
in the eye.
To treat a corneal abrasion, your doctor may recommend prescription eye drops or
an ointment. If your child's eye hurts, the doctor may suggest pain medications. If
your child normally wears contact lenses, the doctor may instruct your child to wear
glasses instead for a few days.
If the corneal abrasion doesn't heal within a few days or the symptoms get worse
following treatment, let the doctor know right away.
To help prevent corneal abrasions, make sure your kids wear eye protection, such
as safety goggles or a facemask, whenever they work with tools, handle chemicals,
or participate in sports where an eye could be affected. This includes sports like
racquetball, skiing, snowboarding, hockey, and lacrosse.
When they go outside on a sunny day, kids should wear sunglasses designed to block
out ultraviolet rays, especially in bright places like beaches and ski slopes. If
you have pets around the house, make sure your kids are careful when playing with
them. Cats, dogs, and other animals can act in unpredictable ways and scratch an eye
without meaning to.
If your child wears contact lenses, make sure they fit properly and are used as
directed. Keeping fingernails neatly trimmed can help prevent accidental scratches
when putting in or removing contacts.
Around the house, be extra careful when anyone uses cleaning products, especially
drain openers and oven cleaners. Many cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that
can burn eyes. And if you have plants around your yard that someone could walk into,
trim away any branches at eye level./p>