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First Aid: Scratched Eye (Corneal Abrasions)

Posted by Alex Francis on

Hiking outdoors certainly has it's troubles.  Especially when hiking in dusty or mountainous areas, sometimes your eyes come under attack!  Anything from dust, dirt, wood, or even pine needles can come out of nowhere with a good gust of wind.

Afterwards, you may experience pain, redness, or even a gritty feeling in your eyes.  It is likely that your cornea has been scratched.  The cornea is like the "window" to the eye, and as irritating as it might be, at least your eye had some protection.

For all corneal abrasions, it is important to see a doctor when you are able to.  Eye infections are some of the worst kind, and they can eventually turn into ulcers left untreated.  (Major ouch!)

Until you are able to see your doctor, try some of these simple remedies:

  1. Rinse out your eye with clean water.  If any debris is still in your eye, this may wash it out.  Try to pour the water across the eye from your ear toward your nose--this mimics the "natural" direction your eye normally tears.
  2. Try blinking several times to remove smaller debris.  (Rinse your eye again afterward if able.)
  3. Try pulling your upper eyelid over the lower eyelid.  Sometimes your lower eyelashes will catch debris under your upper lid.  Additionally, your eye will likely generate tears which may flush out debris.
  4. Do NOT remove any debris that can't be removed via one of the above steps.  Only a health professional should perform such actions.  (This includes using tweezers, or any other tool, to remove debris.)

Fortunately, your cornea usually heals within 1-2 days.  It is likely your doctor will recommend an eye patch during this time, so dig that old pirate costume out of your closet!

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