Corneal Abrasion: Symptoms, Treatment & Healing Time

Corneal abrasions, or scratches on the top layer of the cornea, are very common. They are usually caused by some sort of trauma to the eye. Patients usually remember an event that happened that led to them having a scratch on their cornea. In some cases, patients may wake up with a corneal abrasion because they had rubbed their eye too hard in the middle of the night and didn’t realize it. Patients who wear contact lenses may also be more prone to getting a corneal abrasion.

Corneal Abrasion Symptoms

The most common symptom of a corneal abrasion is pain. You may also experience light sensitivity (photophobia), excessive tearing, eye redness, and blurry vision. It may also be very difficult to open the eye. Sometimes blinking can make the pain worse, so you may prefer to keep the eye closed.

Corneal Abrasion Fluorescein Stain

Your eye doctor can use a special stain in the office to visualize the size of your corneal abrasion. This stain is called a fluorescein stain. It makes your eye yellow and will wash out of your eye on its own after about 20 minutes. The ophthalmologist will use a blue light against the yellow stain to make it more visible. This test is important because it can help the ophthalmologist to measure the size of the scratch, and monitor the progress of the corneal abrasion over time.

Corneal Abrasion Treatment

The treatment of corneal abrasion involves the use of topical antibiotics on the eye. However, antibiotic eyedrops for corneal abrasion treatment do not actually treat the abrasion itself. They just help to prevent an infection in the area of the abrasion. Corneal abrasions should heal on their own. The epithelium that has been scratched away will regrow on its own in the vast majority of patients. But, using antibiotics is very important because developing a corneal ulcer can be very very dangerous to the health of the eye. The type of antibiotic depends on the cause of the abrasion. In adults, usually, an antibiotic eyedrop like ofloxacin is used four to six times a day along with an ophthalmic ointment like erythromycin to use at night.

In some rare cases, an eye doctor may suggest the use of a bandage contact lens. Some patients may find using an eye patch to help keep the eye closed during corneal abrasion healing soothing. If blinking makes your abrasion more painful, then using an eye patch to keep the eye closed could help with this pain. It is okay to use an eye patch, but it is important that using an eye patch does not prevent you from putting in the antibiotics on the schedule assigned by your doctor.

Corneal Abrasion Healing Time

How long does it take to heal from a corneal abrasion? A corneal abrasion usually heals faster than other types of eye injuries because it doesn’t penetrate into the deeper layers of the eye. Usually, most abrasions only affect the epithelium or the topmost layer of the cornea. Corneal abrasion healing time depends on the size of the abrasion. Small abrasions usually heal within 24 to 48 hours. Larger abrasions may take up to a week to heal. It is important to protect the eye during the healing of the abrasion because you can develop a corneal ulcer from a corneal abrasion.

Corneal Abrasion: Take Home Points

Related: Is Rubbing Your Eyes Bad?

Corneal abrasions can be very painful. Your eyes may water, be very sensitive to light, you may not be able to open your eyes, and you can also have blurry vision. It is important to see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible so that you can be prescribed antibiotics. Antibiotics help to prevent corneal abrasions from becoming corneal ulcers. The healing time for corneal abrasion depends on the size of the abrasion. Large abrasions take longer to heal. Using an eye patch is not necessary, but may be helpful for some patients in helping to control pain.


Lim CH, Turner A, Lim BX. Patching for corneal abrasion.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016;7(7):CD004764. Published 2016 Jul 26.

Domingo E, Moshirfar M, Zabbo CP. Corneal Abrasion. In:StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; July 12, 2022.

Miller DD, Hasan SA, Simmons NL, Stewart MW. Recurrent corneal erosion: a comprehensive review.Clin Ophthalmol. 2019;13:325-335. Published 2019 Feb 11.

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