Scratched Eye

If you scratched your eye, it’s very important to be aware of the next steps and also to know how to prevent this situation from occurring in the future.

A superficial scratch on the eye, known medically as a corneal abrasion, usually happens in an instant and is often a result of common eye injuries. The scratch is usually on your cornea which is the clear part that covers the front of the eye including the pupil and iris. A scratch on the eye can be caused by a poke in the eye or if there is a foreign particle trapped under the eyelid. When a scratch happens, it can cause pain in the eye and difficulty closing the eye.

If you experienced a scratch on the eye, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. An examination will be done to find out the exact problem and to properly diagnose it as a corneal abrasion, if relevant. The eye doctor will apply fluorescein, which is a special dye on your cornea. This should not hurt and it highlights the corneal abrasion so the doctor can clearly see it using a special microscope, known as the slit lamp, along with a blue filter. 

Most superficial scratches heal on their own within a few days, but it’s still important to be checked by an eyecare professional. You shouldn’t use any eye drops for a corneal abrasion before consulting with your eye doctor what is best for the health of your eyes. If you’re experiencing severe pain or changes in your vision due to a scratch in your eye, it is recommended that you go to the local emergency room for immediate care.

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A scratch on the eye could cause mild to severe discomfort and pain, sensitivity to light and redness in the eye. Due to the fact that the cornea is a very sensitive part of the eye, even the smallest scratch can cause severe pain. Sometimes the cornea can even become swollen if the object in the eye is rough and big in size. 

Certain other symptoms of a scratch in the eye can include:

  • Sensation of a foreign body in the eye
  • Headaches
  • Decrease in vision
  • Blurriness 
  • Twitching eye
  • Excessive tearing
  • Nausea

If you notice any of these symptoms or experience sudden changes in your vision and find it difficult for you to perform your daily activities, please schedule an eye exam with our eye doctor in Olympia.

Causes of a Scratched Eye

As mentioned, the cornea is a very sensitive part of the eye. An abrasion typically happens when there is a foreign object stuck under the eyelid. Even the smallest and softest of objects can lead to a scratch on the cornea, such as dust or sand.

If you rub your eyes very hard, this could also lead to a corneal abrasion. Dried or dirty contact lenses can also cause a scratch on the eye. When the cornea comes in contact with anything that is pointy or sharp like a fingernail or pencil, it can get scratched and cause severe discomfort. 

Patients with a chronic dry eye syndrome may also face corneal abrasions. A consultation with your eye doctor would give you a clear picture on whether you have dry eye syndrome and how you can best treat it. If you have observed a possible scratch on the eye, you should visit your eye doctor immediately. Treatment of the condition in time can reduce the discomfort and heal the scratch properly.

Causes of a Scratched Eye
Treatment for a Scratch in the Eye

Treatment for a Scratch in the Eye

Prior to the Appointment with the Optometrist

If you think your eye got scratched with a foreign object that is stuck, try to flush the eyes with clean water and to blink more in order to see if the object will come out that way. Don't try to remove the foreign object with your fingers or with any instruments and do not rub your eyes. If it does not come out on its own or there is persistence of pain, redness and sensation of a foreign body then you need immediate care from an eye doctor. 


Once the exam and diagnosis is done, the course of treatment would be given based on the severity of the condition. Over-the-counter lubricating eye drops or prescription eye drops would be recommended by the doctor for minor abrasions. This allows for proper moisture maintenance in the eyes. It also helps with the natural healing of the eye and helps relieve discomfort. Sometimes, the eye doctor will give you eye drops that dilate your pupil in order to ease the pain. The eye doctor may give an ointment for application on the abrasion. In order to reduce the sensitivity to light, pain and inflammation, steroids may also be given to the patient. Even if you have a superficial abrasion, antibiotic eye drops may be used to prevent any types of infections as the healing takes place. If you have a superficial abrasion, the healing process would be faster than a deeper cut, and you can usually see results within a couple of days. 

Other Treatments

Sometimes the eye doctor will give you an eye patch to protect the eye and allow it to heal. Another option is a bandage lens, which usually is a soft contact lens that does not have any optical prescription. It’s main purpose is to protect the cornea from rubbing with your eyelashes or anything else and this allows it to heal better.

Follow Up Care

The eye doctor will often ask you to schedule a follow up exam, after the initial treatment is given. You will also be restricted from wearing your regular contact lenses until the scratch heals properly. If you continue to wear your regular contact lens, you will risk serious infection and the healing process would be disrupted as well. 


If you get treatment in time, the corneal abrasion will heal fast and not cause any permanent damage to your vision. However, if it is left untreated, it can lead to complications, such as the development of a corneal ulcer, which may also lead to vision loss. The most important thing is to abide by the directions and treatment plan given by the eye doctor. If the abrasion does not heal properly, it could cause recurrent erosion of the cornea. Certain other complications arising from this might also have an impact on your vision, health and overall comfort.

Treatment for a Scratch in the Eye


Many corneal abrasions can be easily prevented. Some simple precautions should be taken by individuals, especially at work, to avoid getting a scratch in the eye. If your work environment consists of airborne debris then safety glasses or protective eyewear can work wonders for you. Even if you are engaged in yard work, playing sports or using power tools at home, the use of protective goggles can save you an extensive amount of discomfort. 

Make sure your children’s fingernails are properly cut in order to avoid accidental scratching of the cornea. Also, be very careful when applying makeup not to poke your eye. It is essential that people who wear contact lenses follow the guidelines and maintain proper hygiene to prevent damage to the cornea.

Common Questions

There are certain recommendations of what you should and should not do in order to help your cornea heal after being scratched. Please schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to be checked and guided properly about the treatment plan. If you are experiencing serious pain, changes in your vision or if you are worried for the safety of your eye after it has been scratched then you should go to the nearby emergency room. Here is a list of what you should and should not do when your eye has been scratched: Do’s Don’ts Schedule an emergency appointment with your optometrist Rinse your eye with clean water Blink Wear sunglasses You can try gently pulling your upper eyelid over your lower eyelid, in order to try to help your eyelashes flush out any objects that may be stuck Don't rub your eyes Don't wear contact lenses Don't try removing the foreign object with your fingers or any instruments Don't use over-the-counter eye drops that are meant to relieve redness in the eyes as it can cause more pain - any eye drops applied to a corneal abrasion must first receive approval by an eye doctor in order to prevent further damage How long does it take for the eye to heal from a scratch? The healing time depends on how severe the scratch in the eye is. If it’s a small scratch, it typically takes about 1 to 2 days to heal. You have to wait for the natural healing process to work its way through. But if the scratch was deep, then the healing time could be approximately a week. Your eye doctor can examine your eye and give you a better idea of how long the healing should take. The best way to move forward is to take all the information from your ophthalmologist about the pain scale, medications, time of healing, and the precautions you should take until the healing is done. If the level of pain or other symptoms continue to present themselves for a longer duration than the eye doctor had discussed with you, then please book another appointment to get the eye checked out. Your doctor will review the condition and let you know the best way to proceed.
The amount of time it takes for the corneal abrasion to heal depends on its size. The majority of corneal abrasions heal within two to three days, whereas larger abrasions that cover more than half the cornea's surface may take four to five days to heal. Three months after an eye doctor treated a patient with traumatic corneal abrasion, 28% of the patients had recurring symptoms. With any open wound in the eye it is important to prevent infections which can significantly delay healing and increase the risk for severe complications. That is why it is always a good idea to see our optometrist for a scratched eye as soon as possible.
Scratched Eye
Dr. Zurcher cartoon

If your eye has been scratched, please schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to receive a diagnosis and a proper treatment plan. Most superficial scratches heal on their own within a few days, but it’s important to be checked by an eye care professional. If you have serious symptoms of extreme pain, changes in your vision or anything concerning the safety of your eyes then please go to the emergency room for immediate care. You can schedule an eye exam with our eye doctor by calling (360) 491-2121. Patients with eye emergencies visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of urgent 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.

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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.

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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.

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

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