Foreign Objects / Eye Irritants

A foreign object could be a piece of dust, grit, or other substance that comes in contact with the eye. Most of the time, these objects are so small, we don’t notice them – and when they get into the eye, they’re harmless and easily removable. However, depending on the object and how deeply it enters the eye, foreign objects can be serious.

Woman with foreign object in eye

What Causes Foreign Objects?

In the majority of cases, foreign objects are simply particles in the atmosphere that get into the eye because we don’t see them. However, a foreign object can get into the eye for any reason, including accidents, or doing work that creates flying particles without proper eye protection.

Symptoms of Foreign Objects

You will be able to feel a foreign object in your eye. In fact, you probably have if you’ve ever had an eyelash in your eye. If you don’t notice, or have trouble removing the object, your eye may become red or irritated.

Treatment for Foreign Objects

The course of treatment for a foreign object in the eye depends on what the object is, and the degree of contact it has made with the eye.

Minor foreign objects include things like dust, grit, or an eyelash that is easily removable at home.

The best method of removal is to wash out the eye with an eye wash solution such as Advanced Eye Relief® Eye Wash or if none is available, tap water. If a tap is not nearby, you can use a water fountain, a hose (using a gentle flow), or a shower. The most important point is to use a generous amount of water to ensure the particle is completely flushed out of the eye.

If you still feel the object in your eye, manual removal is the next option. It’s recommended that you use a tissue or cotton swap while doing this, being very careful not to swipe across the eye. Be sure to look in the opposite direction of where you feel the object (if it’s in your upper eyelid, look down, and vice versa) to protect the cornea.

For larger foreign bodies, or foreign bodies that may have penetrated the eye, seek medical attention immediately. If you have any question as to the seriousness of the injury, you should see an eye care professional.

Certain medical treatments for damage caused by foreign objects range from topical medications, emergency care to determine the appropriate treatment for an injury from foreign objects, to surgery (for objects that have penetrated or ruptured the eye).