Got My Eye on You - Corneal Abrasions

Corneal abrasions (scratching of eye) are the most common eye condition seen in the emergency department as well as occupational health clinics. They generally heal without much difficulty, but do lead to a loss of productivity at work. In a study of automotive workers, one-third of those who sustained a corneal abrasion could not resume their normal duties for at least one day. Also, complications of a corneal abrasion can be severe, and may lead to blindness if not treated correctly.

Corneal abrasions generally occur from mechanical trauma but can also occur from foreign bodies as well as contact lens wear or chemical and flash burns. Generally, patients present with eye pain, tearing, and sensitivity to light, especially after a history of eye trauma. Diagnosis is made clinically using visual inspection as well as fluorescein staining to detect abrasion. If a foreign body is found, it must be removed.

Back in the day, patching of the eye was always done. It has been found that this slows healing, so treatment today consists of oral analgesics (Tylenol or ibuprofen, generally) and antibiotic drops. Most uncomplicated corneal abrasions heal in 24-48 hours. Follow-up may or may not be necessary, depending on the size of the abrasion, vision and resolving symptoms. Complications, though, can occur and can be debilitating.

Many corneal abrasions can be prevented through the use of protective eyewear. Polycarbonate lenses offer good protection from projectiles and blunt trauma. Welders, of course, should always wear eye protection that filters UV light. Try to be diligent in encouraging and requiring employees to be protective of their eyes and vision as this can decrease the occurrence of lost time, clinic/emergency visits, and lost productivity.

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