Corneal abrasion

A corneal abrasion is a scratch on the cornea – the clear window on the front of your eye. Abrasions are very painful because there are many nerves that supply this part of the eye. With an abrasion, your eye is often watery, red and sensitive to light. Your eyelids may become swollen and your vision may be blurry.

Causes of corneal abrasion

Scratches to the cornea are common. The cornea could be scratched by a hairbrush, a fingernail or a tree branch. It may be scratched when a small object such as a dust particle hits your eye. If a small foreign body becomes lodged under your eyelid, this can cause scratches on your cornea.

Corneal abrasion treatment

A corneal scratch usually heals on its own and the pain settles over 24 to 48 hours, but your eye may feel gritty for several weeks. Eye infection could develop following a scratch to the cornea, so antibiotic eye drops or ointment are prescribed for several days to prevent this in most cases. You may be prescribed a pupil dilating drop, which may help to relieve the painful spasms of the iris, and occasionally, an eye pad may be applied for several hours.

Anaesthetic drops are only given to numb your eye to help with your examination. They are not prescribed to take home as they will slow corneal healing if used regularly. Please remember that the pain will come back once the anaesthetic has worn off, usually after 20 to 60 minutes.

Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (if you have no medical reason which prevents you using non- steroidal painkillers) are available over the counter at a chemist or on prescription and can be used to help with the pain.

This video demonstrates how to put in your eye drops.

video transcript

Before putting in your eyedrops, first check that the drops are still in date.

If you were using a new bottle of eyedrops also check that the seal is not broken make sure you're putting the correct drops into the correct eye.

Let the correct time to instill your drops. Place a clean tissue on a flat surface wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water invert the bottle two or three times to ensure the contents are evenly mixed together.

Remove the lid and place it on the tissue tilt your head back, pull down your lower lid and form a small pocket. Make sure that the tip of the bottle does not come into contact with your skin or eyelashes as it might contaminate the drops.

Look up and gently squeeze the bottle so that a single drop falls into the pocket made by your lower lid.

Blink the drops in press lightly on the inner corner of your eye this enables more of the drop to be absorbed and not run away down your tear duct.

Wipe any excess fluid from your closed eyelids with a clean tissue.

Recap your drop bottle if you have more than one drop to instill. Wait at least 5 minutes before putting in another drop.

Wash your hands with soap and water to remove any traces of medication.

If you have any problems please contact our nurse led helpline service Moorfields Direct on 0207 566 2345

Other advice

  • Sunglasses may help reduce light sensitivity.
  • Avoid rubbing or touching your eye.
  • You may also be advised to use lubricants (artificial tear drops or ointment) to help keep your eye moist while it heals.
  • If you wear contact lenses, please do not use them until your eye is completely healed (usually within two to four weeks).

Sometimes, though it feels as if the abrasion had healed, you can wake up in the morning several weeks or months following with a feeling that the discomfort from the abrasion has returned. If this happens, don’t panic, but re-attend the A&E department where they will treat you for this re- current abrasion as before but might also give you lubricant eye ointment for use at night.

When to seek advice

In most cases, you will not need to return for a further check-up. However, if your eyesight becomes more blurred over time or if the pain and redness are getting a lot worse, please call Moorfields Direct for advice or attend your local A&E department or the Moorfields 24/7 A&E department for a further eye examination.


Authors: Miss Melanie Hingorani, Dr Swan Kang

Review date: June 2026