Corneal Damage Symptoms
The cornea is densely packed with nerve fibres, which makes it sensitive.¹ This means even the smallest corneal scratch can cause a lot of discomfort and pain, as well as eye redness.
If you notice a grey ring or arc around your cornea this could be a symptom of corneal arcus. This is when fatty deposits form an arc around your cornea. This can be a normal sign of ageing, but in younger people, it can be a sign that you have underlying cholesterol issues.
Corneal Damage Causes
Injuries to the cornea are common. They happen when a foreign object makes contact with the eye causing a scratch, cut or corneal abrasion. This could be sand, a twig, glass, metal fragments or even your fingernails or make-up brushes. If an object punctures through the outer layer of your cornea, it can lead to permanent eye scarring.
Other common causes of injury to the cornea include rubbing your eyes too hard, dry eyes, or an abrasive chemical like bleach or almost any fluid (including sprays) into your eye.
Ultraviolet light from sunlight, sunbeds, welding equipment and lasers can cause a kind of ‘sunburn’ to your cornea called photokeratitis.²
If your contact lenses aren’t used properly, they can end up scratching your cornea. This usually happens if they’re worn too much, if they don’t fit correctly or sometimes if you have an allergic reaction to some types of contact lens solutions.
Inflammation of your cornea or keratitis can be caused by an injury to your cornea or an infection. The symptoms are the same as with corneal damage, but it can also cause a corneal ulcer (eye ulcer) to appear on your eye which can be serious. If keratitis is not treated properly or in time, complications can lead to permanent damage to your cornea and your vision.
Corneal dystrophy is the name for a group of progressive genetic eye diseases that cause changes in your cornea over time. They can eventually cause pain or vision loss but symptoms may take years to appear. Your optometrist can check for signs of corneal dystrophies.³ ⁴
Recurrent corneal erosion is when the outer layer of your cornea doesn’t stick properly to the layers underneath. Friction from rubbing your eyes or even opening them too quickly when you wake up can cause this layer to rip or even break. It’s usually linked with a previous injury to your cornea, eye diseases such as corneal dystrophy, or an underlying condition. Corneal erosion is not visible to the naked eye so will be diagnosed by an optometrist through an eye examination.
Corneal Damage Treatment
Your treatment for corneal damage will depend on the cause.
Generally, if you have a mild corneal abrasion, then it will usually heal by itself within 48 - 72 hours.⁵ It’s a good idea to visit us for a check up if you have any damage, as your cornea is vulnerable to infection which in some cases can cause permanent damage. You may be prescribed an antibacterial treatment to prevent infection.
Severe corneal damage can lead to permanent scarring which may affect your vision or cause pain. In this case, you may require a type of surgery called a corneal transplant where your damaged cornea is replaced with a healthy one.⁶
Worried about your eye health?
It’s always best to get these things checked,
and our expert team are on hand to help.