A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the surface of the eyeball. A small abrasion usually takes about 24 hours to heal. During that time, it will feel just like there is a foreign body in the eye. Often, due to referred pain, it may even feel like the"foreign body" is moving around.
After an abrasion has been diagnosed, depending on its severity, an eye drop may be instilled to dilate the pupil. Much of the pain and sensitivity to sunlight are caused by spasm of the muscle which constricts the pupil. Dilating the pupil puts this muscle to rest (and blurs your vision for about 12 hours).
An antibiotic eyedrop or ointment will have been instilled to prevent infection. Needless to say, the eye is vulnerable to infection when there is a scratch on the surface.
A tight patch is placed over your eye if the abrasion is large enough to warrant one and this should not be removed until the following morning. The movement of the eyelid up and down over the scratched area slows healing and increases the discomfort. Anesthetic eyedrops only last for a few minutes and are not used in this situation because the frequent instillation would actually retard healing. Incidentally, you should not drive with a patch over your eye.
The following morning, you can remove the patch. The eye should feel about 90% better. Also, your vision should be almost back to normal by this time. If not, you should be rechecked. After removing the patch, instill the prescribed antibiotic eye drops four times daily for three days, even if the eye feels completely better.
Relief of pain: the medications and eye patch will make your eye feel much better within an hour or so, but you should also take some aspirin or Tylenol. An ice bag will give further relief (you can improvise one by wrapping a washcloth around a plastic bag of frozen peas). Keep the patch dry if possible.
Recurrent erosion: about 10% of the time, a scratched area will cause symptoms sometime during the following month. The surface of the eye is so slick that the new cells which slide in to cover the defect cannot obtain a firm foothold and may slough off. It will feel like you have something in your eye all over again. If you experience anything like this, come in and be checked. Some types of abrasions are particularly susceptible to this complication and for those people, We recommend instillation of a bland ocular ointment at bedtime, (e.g. Muro 128) and an eyedrop during the day (Muro 128) for one month.
Please call if you have questions.