Getting something in your eye is always irritating. Usually, if you blink enough or use some eye drops, the discomfort goes away as soon as the item is rinsed out of your eye. When the discomfort does not subside and you still have a hard time opening your eye, there's a chance you've scratched your cornea, the outermost layer of your eyeball. Here's a closer look at this injury and what it entails.
What are the signs of a corneal scratch?
You can't usually see a corneal scratch with your naked eye, so don't bother trying—you'll just cause yourself more discomfort. In addition to the feeling of having something in your eye, corneal scratches can cause:
- Excessive tearing
- Inability to open the eye
- Extreme sensitivity to light
- Swelling around the eye
- Redness in and around the eye
What should you do if you think you've scratched your cornea?
Don't force yourself to open your eye; you may just make matters worse. Hold a cool compress over the eye, and have a friend take you to the emergency room. If your eye doctor's office is nearby and open, you can go there instead. You may want to take an over-the-counter pain reliever to keep yourself comfortable while you seek treatment. Do not try to use eye drops; some contain ingredients that will further irritate the injured cornea.
How will your doctor treat your scratched cornea?
First your doctor will inspect your eye to make sure that whatever caused the scratch has been removed. You may be given numbing eye drops to make this process less painful. If the object is still in your eye, it will be removed with a tweezer-like instrument.
Your eye doctor will determine the depth of the scratch. Then, he or she will recommend antibiotic eye drops to prevent the scratch from becoming infected. You'll probably be given an eye patch to wear for at least a week or two while the scratch heals. Your eye doctor may ask you to return for checkups periodically during the healing process. When the scratch is almost healed, you may be given steroid eye drops to help your body complete the healing process.
Most corneal scratches heal up just fine, and you should not have any visual impairment afterwards. However, failing to seek treatment can lead to an infection, which could lead to loss of the eye. So you should always head to the emergency room or your eye doctor if you suspect you have scratched your cornea.