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How to avoid getting a corneal abrasion

Corneal abrasions are very painful and usually heal quite quickly within 24-48 hours. However, the best thing is to avoid getting a corneal abrasion in the first place. I believe that most corneal abrasions are preventable.


Do not rub your eye but wash out any piece of grit that blows in

If you get a foreign body blown into your eye or it becomes stuck underneath your eyelid, and you rub your eye, you will get a corneal abrasion. Therefore if you’re out in windy weather, wear glasses as they offer some protection. But if you already have a small piece of grit that’s blown into your eye, please resist the urge to rub your eye. You need to wash the eye out as quickly as possible after you think something may have blown into it. You can use tap water, lubricating eye drops or saline solution to wash your eye out, depending on what is closest to hand.

The type of things that blow into the eye include:

  • Dust
  • Ash
  • Pollen
  • Organic material (for example leaf fragments, large particles of dirt or building materials)

The people at risk of getting corneal foreign bodies include:

  • Miners
  • Builders
  • Car workers
  • Metalworkers
  • Landscapers
  • Gardeners
  • Woodworkers
  • Ordinary people walking down the street#


See an ophthalmologist if the discomfort persists

If you have got a corneal foreign body or a subtarsal foreign body that appears to be scratching your eye and giving you a corneal abrasion and you cannot get rid of it by washing it out, you need to see an urgent eye care ophthalmologist. The doctor will be able to examine you and delicately remove the corneal or subtarsal foreign body. Then your superficial corneal abrasion will get better very quickly.


3. Avoid Sporting injuries by using Protective Eye Wear

Many sports are associated with eye injuries, including hockey, lacrosse, racketball, squash and cricket. These sports can cause severe eye injuries, the least of which is the corneal abrasion. However, by wearing eye protection in the form of acrylic safety glasses or goggles, or helmets with face masks, you can prevent not only a corneal abrasion but a more severe vision-threatening eye injury.


4. Avoid sharp objects that can cause ocular trauma

These include:

  • Fingernails
  • Tree branches
  • Gardening sticks
  • Babies’ fingernails
  • Corners of paper
  • Yucca plants

By taking great care to be aware of the objects and babies around you – if you are not wearing eyewear – you can avoid getting a corneal abrasion. The objects listed here are the most common causes of this type of injury. They are also the most significant because they cause a deep corneal abrasion where the epithelial cells of the cornea are bound to the deep Bowman’s membrane. Their binding becomes weakened, and you can get recurrent corneal erosion, which is exceedingly painful. So you should try to keep the fingernails of infants and young children clipped short and away from your eyes. You should remove low-hanging tree branches or objects in the garden that can poke into your eye.


5. Surgical corneal abrasion

Having eyelid or eye surgery is a risk factor for getting a corneal abrasion. This is because the eye can dry out during the operation and, during the first 24-hours after surgery, you may well develop a corneal abrasion. After surgery, the doctor will often place a pad over the patient’s eye, and this soothes the surface of the eye and allows the epithelium to grow gently back within a moist environment. 

If you do not have an eye pad, then lubricant drops should be put in frequently to prevent a corneal abrasion, or to make a mild corneal abrasion more comfortable. There are two reasons why you can get a corneal abrasion after surgery. Firstly, the corneal epithelium can dry out. Secondly, the eyes can be slightly opened during a general anaesthetic operation and can dry out because of the lack of blinking, and because of lack of exposure in front of the eye.

Fortunately, most anaesthetists will put in a paraffin-based ointment during surgery, or tape the eyes closed during your operation, to prevent corneal abrasion. If you are in intensive care or a high-dependency unit you are again at risk of getting a corneal abrasion. This is also because of the lack of blinking and the eye surface drying out, and so various measures are taken to prevent that. This applies to neonates in neonatal intensive care or a high-dependency unit and those of all other ages.



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Read about Corneal Abrasion & Ulcer treatment.

Miss Jane Olver

Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon
Oculoplastic (Eyelid) & Lacrimal Specialist
Medical Director

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Mr Sajjad Ahmad

Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon
Cornea & External Eye Diseases, Cataract, Keratoconus & Refractive Surgery Specialist

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