Many people prefer contact lenses to glasses, but if you don't use them carefully, you can injure your eyes with corneal abrasions. Here's what you need to know about this type of injury.
What are corneal abrasions?
Corneal abrasions are a painful type of eye injury. Your cornea is the clear lens of your eye that covers your iris and your pupil, and focuses light that comes into your eye. Corneas are pretty strong, since they have to protect the tissues underneath, but they can still get damaged. When your cornea gets scratched or cut, you have a corneal abrasion.
How do contact lenses cause corneal abrasions?
Contact lenses come in direct contact with the cornea. This is safe as long as you follow your optometrist's directions, but if you don't use your lenses properly, they can hurt your corneas. Contact lenses that don't fit properly can scratch your corneas. Lenses that are too old or not cleaned properly can also be a problem; as you wear your lenses, protein builds up on them, and this buildup can scratch your corneas.
How common are corneal abrasions?
Corneal abrasions are very common; in fact, this is the single most common eye injury. It is more common among people who wear contact lenses than in people who don't. Corneal abrasions are responsible for 2% of all visits to family doctors. This injury also makes up about 10% of all eye-related injuries seen in hospital emergency rooms.
How do optometrists treat this injury?
Corneal abrasions are usually treated with medicated eye drops. Some of these drops are topical NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) which are used to reduce pain and swelling. Other types of drops are topical antibiotics; these drops will keep your wounded eye from getting infected. Optometrists don't recommend eye patches anymore, since they can slow down the healing process.
What are the complications of corneal abrasions?
Corneal abrasions are scratches, so they usually heal well if they are small. Larger scratches can cause more damage to the eye, and can lead to lingering pain or even ulcers in the area. It's also possible for the abrasion to get infected. Your optometrist can help you avoid these complications, but prompt treatment is important.
Corneal abrasions are painful, but you can help prevent this injury by using your contact lenses carefully. Following your optometrist's directions will help to keep your eyes safe. If you think you already have a corneal abrasion, see your optometrist right away for treatment.