You can sustain an eye injury in almost any setting, whether you are outdoors or relaxing at home. Housework and sports are two of the most common causes of eye injuries. However, even cooking or playing with your dog or cat can get you a scratched eye.
Also known as a corneal abrasion, a scratched eye can range from a relatively trivial irritation to an extremely serious cut that results in permanent vision loss. Trauma to the surface of the eye is often caused by small pieces of dirt, wood or metal. When these particles get into the eye, they can either scratch the cornea on their own or when the eye is rubbed.
Common symptoms of a scratched cornea include pain, sensitivity to light, excessive squinting and an overproduction of tears. An abrasion to the surface of the eye also has cosmetic symptoms such as swollen eyelids or enlarged pupils. Another symptom is blurred vision, primarily due to the swelling of the cornea and/or the excess tears.
Here are a few things you should do if you think you have scratched your eye:
1. Call your eye doctor – Before trying to treat a scratched eye on your own, it is important to contact your preferred eye doctor. He or she can offer guidance about how to keep yourself from further damaging your eye.
2. Rinse your eye – Fill a small, clean glass with saline solution or clean water. Rest the rim of the glass on the bone at the bottom of your eye socket (below your lower eyelid). The water or saline solution can often flush out the foreign object that scratched your eye.
3. Blink – It sounds simple, but blinking is another way to flush out a small particle of dust or sand that might be in your eye.
4. Pull your upper eyelid over your lower eyelid – The lashes on your lower eyelid can brush away a foreign object caught underneath your upper eyelid.
5. Wear sunglasses – A scratched eye is often sensitive to light so sunglasses will lessen the symptoms while your eye heals.
Now that you know what to do in the event of a scratched eye, it is important you take note of things you should NOT do:
- Do not touch your eye – Whether it is with your fingers or a cotton swab, touching your eye with anything will not help remove the foreign object (and will probably hurt your eye even more). Remember, the object that caused the abrasion might be gone even if it still feels like something is in your eye.
- Do not rub your eye – It can be very tempting to rub your eye but this can actually make the abrasion worse.
- Do not wear contact lenses – Wearing contact lenses with a scratched eye can slow the healing process and cause complications.
- Eyes often heal very quickly, so an eye scratch may heal faster than a cut on your skin would. But each scratch is different and there is no way to predict exactly how long it will take for an eye scratch to heal. Your ophthalmologist can tell you what to expect after they have examined your eye. If your symptoms go on for longer than the doctor told you to expect—or get worse—you should get in touch with your doctor to find out what to do next .