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Corneal Abrasions

  • Overview

    A corneal abrasion is a scratch or injury to the cornea, which is the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye.

    • Corneal abrasions are very common in children.
    • The condition can be caused by foreign bodies in the eye, a scratch from a toy or a fingernail, or even a contact lens. When these objects have contact with the surface of the eye, a small abrasion can occur.
    • After treatment, your doctor may place a patch over the affected eye to help decrease your child's level of discomfort.
    • Most corneal abrasions heal quickly and do not cause any permanent damage to the eye.


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    Boston Children's Hospital 
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115

     617-355-6401



  • In-Depth

    What is a corneal abrasion?

    A corneal abrasion is a scratch or injury to the cornea, which is the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye. This is a very common occurrence in children.

    What causes a corneal abrasion?

    There are many things that can cause an abrasion to the cornea. The more common causes include:

    • foreign bodies in the eye (such as dirt, pebbles or insects)
    • a scratch from a toy or fingernail
    • contact lenses in older children

    When these objects have contact with the surface of the eye, a small abrasion can occur.

    What are the symptoms of a corneal abrasion?

    Each child may experience symptoms differently, but the most common symptoms of a corneal abrasion are:

    • pain in the affected eye
    • tearing in the affected eye
    • pain when the child looks at a light
    • excessive blinking in the affected eye
    • a tendency to try and hold the affected eye shut, particularly in younger children

    Because the symptoms of a corneal abrasion may resemble other eye conditions or medical problems, you should always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

  • Tests

    How is a corneal abrasion diagnosed?

    Diagnosis is usually made based on a complete medical history and physical examination of your child's eye.

    The physical examination may include the following steps:

    • Local anesthetic drops may be placed in your child’s eye.
    • In addition, your child's physician may order a fluorescein stain to help confirm the diagnosis. This is done by placing a small amount of a dye in the child's eye. The stain does not hurt the child.
    • A special light is then used to look at the surface of the cornea and reveal any abrasions or scratches.

    Most corneal abrasions heal quickly and do not cause any permanent damage to the eye. Treatment may take the following forms:

    • If a foreign body is seen in the eye, it may be removed with a small cotton applicator, or by washing the eye out with a saline solution.
    • An antibiotic ointment may be placed in the eye.
    • A patch over the eye may be used to help decrease your child's level of discomfort. A patch is usually required for 12 to 24 hours following a corneal abrasion.
    • Close follow-up with your child's physician will be necessary to assure that the abrasion heals completely.
    • Severe abrasions or cuts into the cornea may be managed by an eye specialist because of the increased risk of damage to the eye.
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