Can a Scratched Eye Heal Without Treatment?

Medically Reviewed on 9/28/2022
A scratched eye may turn into a sore over the cornea and cause blindness.
A scratched eye may turn into a sore over the cornea and cause blindness.

A scratched eye may turn into a sore over the cornea and cause blindness. Hence, it is important to seek immediate medical care for a scratched eye (corneal abrasion). Depending on the cause, an eye scratch could leave minor to major impacts. Whatever the reason is, or the injury type is, one must not ignore an eye scratch. The cornea is one of the most important parts that make up the human eye. The cornea is a shield to the eye, and it is one of the surfaces that allow the eye to see. The reason why corneal abrasions can be hard to deal with is that they happen on the clear layer of the eye, which means that they can be quite hard to detect. Patients can feel immense pain, but a scratch cannot be seen until it is a huge one. Even small scratches that don’t expose the inner layers of the cornea can be very painful and affect vision. The injury may heal within a week; however, consult an eye specialist promptly to determine the severity of the injury. Minor scratches may heal within a very little time. However, serious scratches take a good time to heal.

Things to do immediately:

  • Blink rapidly because this can cause the eye to water and help flush out small bits of debris.
  • Rinse your eye with a sterile saline solution to flush out particles. One can use a bottle of saline or even a clean drinking glass.
  • Wear sunglasses if your eye is sensitive to light because of the scratch. Sunglasses will lessen the symptoms while you heal.
  • You can pull the upper eyelid over the lower eyelids. The lower eyelid lashes can remove foreign objects underneath the upper eyelid.

Things not to do:

  • Do not rub your eye.
  • Do not touch your eye with anything such as a Q-tip or tweezers.
  • Do not wear your contact lenses.
  • Do not patch the eye unless instructed to do so by an optometrist.

An eye doctor may prescribe the following:

  • Antibiotic ointment and an eye pad to keep the eye closed: This may allow the cornea to heal without being interrupted by blinking. The cornea usually heals in 2-3 days, but patients must follow the doctor’s instructions about how long to use the ointment for avoiding complications.
  • Lubricants at night: To prevent the eyelid from sticking to the cornea while sleeping and tearing the healing eye skin. These lubricants may need to be continued for several weeks.
  • Eye drops: Eye drops such as cyclopentolate dilates (enlarges) the pupil and helps to relieve pain. Vision is blurred for at least 12 hours after the drop has been used.

How is it diagnosed?

In most cases, the diagnosis is confirmed by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor). The ophthalmologist examines the cornea with a microscope. A drop of anesthetic is given to make the examination more comfortable. A small amount of dye will also be put onto your eye so that the abrasion can be seen more clearly. An ophthalmologist mostly depends on signs and symptoms before proceeding with further examinations:

  • A feeling of pain, especially when you open and close your eyes
  • Feeling like something is stuck in your eyes, such as sand or dust, and no matter what you do you can’t get it out
  • Excessive production of tears
  • Intense sensitivity to light, both natural and artificial
  • Redness in one or both of the eyes, especially around the area where the pain originates 
  • One-sided headaches that won’t go away
  • Affected vision can include blurred vision, not being able to distinguish objects from afar or up close, and even losing visual effectiveness at the night

Can there be any permanent damage?

Most corneal abrasions or eye scratches heal quickly, and vision returns completely. In a small number of cases, although the skin over the cornea heals, it does not bind down entirely and can stick to the eyelid at night and rip when waking and opening the eyes or when the eyes move rapidly while dreaming. This is called recurrent corneal erosion syndrome and may require the prolonged use of lubricant eye ointments and occasionally laser surgery. If such symptoms reoccur please seek medical advice.


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Medically Reviewed on 9/28/2022
What Is a Corneal Abrasion?