Is there a difference between a scratched eye and a scratched cornea?

Published on
January 9, 2023

Corneal abrasions, or scratched corneas, are a common occurrence and make up a significant portion of eye injury cases. In fact, around 10% of emergency eye care is related to corneal abrasions.

A scratched eye, is another name for a corneal abrasion, it is a common and usually minor injury that occurs when something scratches the clear, protective layer that covers the front of the eye. 

Although a corneal abrasion is generally a minor injury it is important to get it seen right away in order to prevent infection. This is because the cornea is extremely important to our vision, the cornea is a  transparent layer at the front of the eye that helps focus light, and if it is damaged it can cause distorted vision. 

The cornea is one of the most sensitive parts of our body and you can usually tell if you scratched the cornea because of pain. A scratched eye or scratched cornea can cause pain, redness, and sensitivity to light. 

What causes a scratched eye?

A scratched eye can happen from a variety of causes, one of the most common causes is by a foreign object, such as a piece of dirt or a contact lens, getting into the eye and scratching the cornea. It can also be caused by rubbing the eye too hard or by accidentally poking the eye with a finger or other object. While most cases of scratches to the eye heal on their own it is always a good idea to visit our optometrist so that they can examine the scratch under a microscope and if needed provide treatment. 

Treatment may include antibiotics, special eye drops or ointments, specialized bandage contact lenses, and in rare cases, surgery.

Can a scratched eye or scratched cornea heal on its own?

In most cases, a scratched eye will heal on its own within a few days with proper treatment. If the pain is not subsiding, your vision is impacted, or you have symptoms that persist, you should schedule an emergency eye exam by calling us at (360) 491-2121. While most cases do not lead to any long term damage, it is important to make sure that the wound heals properly and does not cause infection or scarring, this is especially true if the scratch is deep. In the case of severe eye pain or vision impairment, visit our eye doctor as soon as possible.

Visit us at American Family Vision Clinic for an eye emergency

If you think you may have a scratched eye or scratched cornea, it is important to see an eye doctor as soon as possible. Our eye doctor in Olympia can diagnose and treat a scratched eye and scratched cornea, and help you preserve your vision. Call us at (360) 491-2121 if you suspect you have a scratched eye or a scratched cornea. Patients with eye emergencies like a scratched eye or a scratched cornea visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of medical eye care for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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