Do minor eye injuries heal better with or without an eye patch?

Photo of a boy at an eye examination
PantherMedia / Tyler Olson

Eye patches probably don’t help small scratches on the to heal faster. They may even slow down the recovery somewhat.

Your may become slightly scratched if a small object gets into your eye – for instance, if you get a grain of sand under an eyelid or under a contact lens. Minor superficial scratches on the will usually heal by themselves within two to three days.

In the meantime, some people cover their eye with an eye patch to keep it closed and relaxed. There are possible reasons both for and against wearing a patch: On the one hand, it might speed up the healing process by reducing blinking that irritates the scratch. On the other hand, keeping the eye closed could, for instance, make it more prone to .

Eye patches do not speed up recovery

Researchers from the (an international research network) looked for clinical studies on the effectiveness of using eye patches to treat superficial injuries to the . They found twelve studies with about 1,100 participants who had damaged their in the two days before taking part in the study. The participants were all treated with medication.

Each study compared two groups: In one group the participants only used medication, and in the other they also wore an eye patch.

Overall, the results suggest that eye patches could slow down the healing process somewhat:

  • Without an eye patch, the injuries had healed after one day in 60 out of 100 people.
  • With an eye patch, the injuries had healed after one day in 54 out of 100 people.

But the studies had some weaknesses. For instance, those patients who didn’t wear an eye patch used antibiotic ointments more often. This could partly explain why the healing process was somewhat quicker.

Also, the studies only included people with minor injuries to the . It therefore remains unclear whether eye patches could help people with more severe damage to the . The studies didn’t look into other eye injuries, such as damage caused by chemicals.

Lim CH, Turner A, Lim BX. Patching for corneal abrasion. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2016; (7): CD004764.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. informedhealth.org can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

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Updated on May 25, 2020
Next planned update: 2023

Authors/Publishers:

Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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