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Corneal Ulcers vs Abrasions: Unveiling Variances in Eye Trauma

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Eye trauma in a person may lead to several eye conditions, among which corneal ulcers and abrasion are common.

Although both these eye conditions affect the cornea, they can happen due to several causes.

It is important to learn about the similarities and differences of these conditions to receive the appropriate treatment.

Since it affects the cornea, it may threaten one’s vision and cause severe discomfort.

This article will discuss the cornea ulcers vs abrasions debate in detail.

What are Corneal Ulcer and Corneal Abrasion

Corneal ulcer, also known as Keratitis, refers to an open sore or lesion on the cornea (clear front part of the eye).

A person mainly experiences this condition due to eye infections and may require prompt treatment.

Since infections are the main cause of this condition, leaving it untreated may lead to blindness.

On the other hand, corneal abrasion is a cut due to the scraping or scratching of the cornea’s outer layer.

The scratching causes eye trauma and can become a risk factor for causing infections.

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  • Symptoms of Corneal Ulcers vs Abrasions

    Photophobia (caused from Uveitis)Source: razyph_from_Getty_Images
    Photophobia (Symptom)

    The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) states that a person with corneal ulcers may experience several symptoms.

    These symptoms include redness in the eyes, eye pain, tearing, and eye discharge.

    Some people may also experience inflammation, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light (photophobia).

    In the case of corneal abrasion, individuals may face symptoms like redness, pain, and watery eyes.

    People with this condition may often feel like something is stuck in their eyes and also experience blurry or hazy vision.

    If you want to learn more about the symptoms of corneal ulcers, read Unveiling Corneal Ulcer Symptoms: A Comprehensive Guide.

    Causes of Corneal Ulcers and Abrasions

    According to research, the major cause of corneal ulcers in a person is infections due to bacteria, viruses, or fungi.

    It may also happen because of a bacterial infection in one’s contact lenses.

    This may lead to the formation of Keratitis and ultimately lead to corneal ulcers.

    Another study states that people may experience corneal ulcers due to complications from other eye conditions like Glaucoma and Cataracts.

    On the other hand, a person faces corneal abrasion when they encounter foreign particles like dust and dirt in their eyes.

    A study states that when a person rubs their eyes after these particles enter their eyes, it leads to this condition.

    Moreover, damaged contact lenses and scratches from fingernails or other objects may cause corneal abrasion.

    Do you want to learn more about fungal corneal ulcers? Read Demystifying Fungal Corneal Ulcers.

    In corneal ulcers and abrasion, using contact lenses for a prolonged period increases the risk of developing these conditions.

    Corneal Ulcers vs Corneal Abrasions Treatments

    Use prescribed eyedropSource: RossHelen
    Use prescribed eyedrop

    Since bacterial infections mostly cause corneal ulcers, doctors often suggest using antibiotic eye drops for infection.

    Doctors may also prescribe oral medications for severe infections or artificial tears to soothe the eyes due to viral infections.

    In severe cases, a person may need Penetrating keratoplasty or corneal transplantation.

    Since corneal abrasion can sometimes lead to eye infections, doctors prescribe antibiotic ointments like Erythromycin to prevent it.

    They may also provide patching or protective eye coverings to prevent further trauma.

    If you want to learn more about the treatments of corneal ulcers, read our article on Corneal Ulcer Treatments.

    If you are experiencing eye pain alongside discharge from the eyes, it is best to consult your doctor immediately. It may be a sign of corneal ulcer and can result in loss of vision if left untreated.

    Corneal Ulcer vs Abrasion

    Although both corneal ulcers and abrasion affect the cornea, they have several differences.

    The table below comprehensively discusses the important comparisons between these two conditions.

    AspectsCorneal UlcerCorneal Abrasion
    DefinitionOpen sore or lesion on the cornea’s surfaceExternal scratch or scrape on the cornea
    Depth of InjuryDeeper, involving layers beneath the surfaceShallow and limited to the outer layer
    CausesBacterial, viral, or fungal infectionsForeign objects, trauma, contact lenses
    SymptomsIntense pain, redness, blurred vision, eye dischargeA sensation of a foreign object, pain, redness
    Sensitivity to LightIncreased sensitivityVariable sensitivity
    Vision ImpactSevere vision impairment is possibleTemporary blurry vision
    TreatmentAntibiotic, antiviral, antifungal medicationsAntibiotic eye drops, eye protection
    Complications and RisksVision loss, severe infectionsInfection, delayed healing
    Diagnostic MethodsCultures, imaging testsFluorescein staining
    Recovery TimeLonger due to deeper injury
    Shorter, typically heals within days


    Corneal ulcer vs abrasion is a popular debate since both these conditions affect one’s cornea.

    While corneal ulcer and abrasion both cause eye pain, blurry vision, and redness, corneal ulcer often produces eye discharge and tearing additionally.

    A person usually experiences corneal ulcers due to eye infections, while abrasions usually happen due to trauma because of scratching or foreign bodies.

    Doctors usually suggest using antibiotic eye drops or artificial tears to treat and prevent corneal ulcers and abrasions.

    If you are experiencing blurry vision, it is best to consult your doctor immediately for treatment.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Do both corneal ulcers and abrasion cause vision loss?

    No, both corneal ulcers and abrasion do not cause vision loss. Since corneal ulcers happen at a deeper level, they can cause blindness if they remain untreated. However, if one receives prompt treatment, corneal abrasion only causes temporary blurry vision.

    What precautions can prevent corneal ulcers and abrasion?

    Wearing protective eyewear during high-risk activities and maintaining proper contact lens hygiene can prevent corneal ulcers and abrasion.
    Individuals can also avoid rubbing their eyes excessively and immediately treat eye injuries to reduce the risk of these conditions.

    How are corneal ulcers and abrasions diagnosed?

    Doctors diagnose corneal ulcers through eye examinations, cultures, and imaging tests like slit-lamp exams. On the other hand, fluorescein staining, along with an eye examination to visualize and assess the extent of the scratch or scrape on the cornea, diagnoses the abrasion.

    Can you develop corneal ulcers from corneal abrasion?

    Yes, corneal abrasions can lead to corneal ulcers if they become infected. If they remain untreated or if bacteria penetrate the corneal surface through the abrasion, it may result in a deeper infection, forming a corneal ulcer.

    What should I do if I suspect I have a corneal ulcer or abrasion?

    If you suspect having a corneal ulcer or abrasion, it is best to avoid rubbing the eyes. Rinsing the eyes gently can reduce the discomfort, and then it is best to consult a doctor immediately.

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    Photo of author Janet Fudge
    Janet Fudge is a highly skilled and experienced pharmacologist who serves as a contributing writer for With a strong academic background from a premier US University and a passion for helping others, Janet has become a trusted voice in the pharmaceutical world. After completing her Doctor of Pharmacy degree, Janet embarked on a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, working with various clients, including hospitals, retail pharmacies, and drug manufacturers. Her in-depth knowledge of pharmacology and dedication to patient-centered care has led her to excel in her field. As a writer for, Janet uses her wealth of expertise to provide readers with accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information on various topics related to medicine and healthcare. Her engaging writing style and ability to break down complex topics into easily digestible content make her a valuable resource for healthcare professionals and the general public.
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