A corneal abrasion is a scratch or cut on the surface of the cornea, the clear, dome shaped tissue on the front of the eye. The most common causes for abrasions are a fingernail scratching the eye, walking into something, or getting a foreign body caught in the eye. Abrasions can also be caused by contact lens insertion and removal.

Corneal abrasions can be painful because there are many nerves that supply the cornea. As your child’s eye heals (between 24-48 hours) the pain will ease. If the abrasion is on the central part of their cornea, their vision could also be temporarily affected.

Signs and symptoms

The main signs and symptoms of a corneal abrasion include:

  • pain – while the eye is resting or moving
  • red, watery eyes
  • sensitivity to light
  • blocked, blurry or clouded vision.


Diagnosing a corneal abrasion involves a thorough examination of your child’s eyes and eyelids. This is to check for any trapped foreign body and ensure there is no serious eye injury. This is followed by eye drops or ointment and, sometimes an eye patch. If your child is given an eye patch, they will need to wear it for 12-24 hours.

When to seek help

Call the hospital if:

  • there is increased pain in the eye
  • there is increased redness in the eye
  • there is an increase in discharge from the eye.

Developed by the Ophthalmology Department, Queensland Children's Hospital. Resource ID: FS273 Reviewed: April 2023

Disclaimer: This information has been produced by healthcare professionals as a guideline only and is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your child’s doctor or healthcare professionals. Information is updated regularly, so please check you are referring to the most recent version. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.

Last updated: December 2023