Objects in the Eye
It's not uncommon for a speck of dirt or a small object, such as an eyelash or makeup, to get in your eye. Usually your natural tears will wash the object out. Objects may scratch the surface of the eye (cornea) or may become stuck on the eye. If the cornea is scratched, it can be hard to tell when you have gotten the object out, because a scratched cornea may feel painful and as though something is still in the eye. Most corneal scratches are minor and heal on their own in 1 or 2 days.
See a picture of the eye.
Small objects traveling at high speed or sharp objects traveling at any speed can cause serious injury to many parts of the eyeball. Injury may cause bleeding, a change in the size or shape of the pupil, a film over the eye lens, or damage to the inside of the eyeball. These objects may become embedded deep in the eye and may require medical treatment.
Objects in the eye can be prevented by using protective eyewear. Wear safety glasses, goggles, or face shields when working with power tools or chemicals or doing any activity that might cause an object or substance to get into your eyes. Some professions, such as health care and construction, may require workers to use protective eyewear to reduce the risk of foreign objects or substances or body fluids getting in the eyes.
For information about other types of eye injuries, such as blows to the eye, see the topic Eye Injuries.
Use the Check Your Symptoms section to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
First aid for objects in the eye
- Don't rub your eye, because this could scratch the outer surface (cornea) of the eye. You may have to keep small children from rubbing their eyes.
- Wash your hands before touching your eye.
- If you wear contact lenses, take the contacts out before trying to remove the object or flush your eye.
- If an object is over the dark center (pupil) of the eye or over the colored part (iris) of the eye, you may try to gently flush it out with water. If the object does not come out with flushing, put on dark glasses, and call your doctor. Do not put any pressure on the eye.
- If the object is on the white part (sclera) of the eye or inside the lower lid, wet a cotton swab or the tip of a twisted piece of tissue and touch the end to the object. The object should cling to the swab or tissue. Some minor irritation is common after you have removed the object in this way.
- Gently flush the eye with cool water. A clean eyedropper may help. Many times the object will be under the upper eyelid and can be removed by lifting the upper lid away and flushing gently.
- Do not try to remove a piece of metal, an object that has punctured the eye, or an object stuck on the eye after flushing with water.
- Never use tweezers, toothpicks, or other hard items to remove any object. Using these items could cause eye damage.
If your eye symptoms are not 100% better after 24 hours of home treatment, an evaluation by a doctor is needed.
Eye injury in a child
Applying first aid measures for an eye injury in a child may be difficult depending on the child's age, size, and ability to cooperate. Having another adult help you treat the child is helpful. Stay calm and talk in a soothing voice. Use slow, gentle movements to help the child remain calm and cooperative. A struggling child may need to be held strongly so that first aid can be started and the seriousness of the eye injury assessed.
|Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:|
Talk to your child’s doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
|Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:|
Symptoms to Watch For During Home Treatment
Use the Check Your Symptoms section to evaluate your symptoms if any of the following occur during home treatment:
The following tips may help prevent eye injuries.
- Wear safety glasses, goggles, or face shields when you work with power tools or chemicals or do any activity that might cause an object or substance to get into your eyes. Some professions, such as health care and construction, may require workers to use protective eyewear to reduce the risk of foreign objects or substances or body fluids getting in the eyes.
- If you are welding or near someone else who is welding, wear a mask or goggles designed for welding.
- Wear protective eyewear during sports such as baseball, hockey, racquetball, or paintball that involve the risk of a blow to the eye. Fishhook injuries are another common cause of eye injuries. Protective eyewear can prevent sports-related eye injuries more than 90% of the time. An eye examination may be helpful in determining what type of protective eyewear is needed.
Eye injuries are common in children, and many can be prevented. Most eye injuries happen in older children. They occur more often in boys than in girls. Toys—from crayons to toy guns—are a major source of injury, so check all toys for sharp or pointed parts.
Teach children about eye safety:
- Be a good role model—always wear eye protection.
- Get protective eyewear for your children and help them use it properly.
- Teach children that toys that fly should not be pointed at another person.
- Teach children how to properly carry sharp or pointed objects.
- Teach children that any kind of missile, projectile, or BB gun is not a toy.
- Use safety measures near fires and explosives, such as camp fires and fireworks.
Preparing For Your Appointment
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
If you have an object in the eye that affects your vision, have someone else drive you to your doctor. If you are wearing contact lenses, remove them, and take your glasses with you.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
- Do you have an object in your eye? What is the object? When did it get into your eye? Did it fall into your eye, or did it fly into your eye at high speed?
- Do you wear glasses or contacts? Did you remove your contact lens? Has the injury affected your vision (as corrected with glasses or contacts)?
- What kind of vision changes are you having (not related to removing your eyeglasses or contact lenses)?
- What home treatment have you tried? Did it help?
- What prescription and nonprescription medicines have you used? Did they help?
- Do you have any health risks?
|Author||Jan Nissl, RN, BS|
|Editor||Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA|
|Associate Editor||Tracy Landauer|
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Martin Gabica, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine|
|Last Updated||December 6, 2009|