Foreign Body in the Eye: Symptoms and treatment

A foreign body in the eye is something that enters the eye from outside the body. It can be anything that does not naturally belong there, from a particle of dust to a metal shard. When a foreign object enters the eye, it will most likely affect the cornea or the conjunctiva. A foreign object that lands on the front part of the eye cannot get lost behind the eyeball, but they can cause scratches on the cornea. These injuries usually are minor. However, some types of foreign objects can cause infection or damage the vision.

Symptoms of a foreign body in the eye

If you have a foreign object in your eye, you probably will experience immediate symptoms. You may experience

  • Sensation that something is in your eye
  • Feeling of pressure or discomfort
  • Eye pain
  • Extreme tearing
  • Excessive blinking
  • Redness or a bloodshot eye

Cases in which a foreign object penetrates the eye are rare. Typically objects that enter the eye are the result of an intense, high-speed impact like an explosion. Foreign objects that penetrate the eye are called intraocular objects. Additional symptoms of an intraocular object include discharge of fluid or blood from the eye.

Treatment

  • Never rub your eye to try to get the object out because this can create a corneal abrasion or deeper injury.
  • If you wear contact lenses, wash your hands and remove the lenses. It is possible that a small rip in the lens is causing the irritation, rather than a foreign object.
  • If the object is small, such as an eyelash or speck of dirt, you may be able to see it by opening the eye as wide as possible. Have someone look at your eye or, if you are by yourself, look in a mirror. Hold down your lower lid and look up, then lift your upper lid and look down. If you can see the object, you can remove it with the edge of a facial tissue or a moistened cotton swab.
  • For small objects you also can try rinsing your eye with clean water.
  • If neither of these methods removes the object, try getting someone to help. Lie on your side and hold your eye open with your fingers. Have your friend rinse the eye with an eyedropper or small cup filled with warm water or sterile saline solution.
  • If you cannot remove the object, bandage your eye loosely and see a doctor. Your treatment at the doctor’s office depends on what the object is, where it is and whether it has damaged your eye. If you have a corneal abrasion, your doctor may give you antibiotics (eye drops or ointment) to prevent infection. Your doctor does not prescribe anesthetic-containing eye drops, although he or she may use them during your examination. Although these eye drops make your eye feel better, they also prevent you from feeling pain that may indicate a more serious problem.

When To Call A Professional

A puncture wound in the eye is a medical emergency. If you have a foreign object that may be embedded beneath the eye surface, see a physician immediately.

The eye is easily damaged, so you should see a doctor if:

  • You think you have removed the object but still have pain, irritation or blurred vision.
  • You cannot remove the object yourself or with the help of someone else.

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