Eye - foreign object in
Foreign body; Particle in the eye
The eye will often flush out small objects, like eyelashes and sand, through blinking and tearing. DO NOT rub the eye if there is something in it. Wash your hands before examining the eye.
Examine the eye in a well-lit area. To find the object, look up and down, then from side to side.
- If you can't find the object, it may be on the inside of one of the eyelids. To look inside the lower lid, first look up then grasp the lower eyelid and gently pull down. To look inside the upper lid, you can place a cotton-tipped swab on the outside of the upper lid and gently fold the lid over the cotton swab. This is easier to do if you are looking down.
- If the object is on an eyelid, try to gently flush it out with water or eye drops. If that does not work, try touching a second cotton-tipped swab to the object to remove it.
- If the object is on the white of the eye, try gently rinsing the eye with water or eye drops. Or, you can GENTLY touch a cotton swap to the object to try to remove it. If the object is on the colored part of the eye, DO NOT attempt to remove it. Your eye may still feel scratchy or uncomfortable after removing an eyelashes or other tiny object. This should go away within a day or two. If you continue to have discomfort or blurred vision, get medical help.
Contact your health care provider and DO NOT treat yourself if:
- You have a lot of eye pain or sensitivity to light.
- Your vision is decreased.
- You have red or painful eyes.
- You have flaking, discharge, or a sore on your eye or eyelid.
- You have had trauma to your eye, or you have a bulging eye or a drooping eyelid.
- Your dry eyes do not get better with self-care measures within a few days.
If you have been hammering, grinding, or could have come in contact with metal fragments, DO NOT attempt any removal. Go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
I'm Dr. Alan Greene and let's talk about what do you do when something gets in the eye. Irritating problem. First thing you do is not rub the eye. That can just make it worse and harder to get out as well. What you do want to do at the beginning is locate whatever it is. For this it helps if you have somebody else there with you to be able to take a look. Get you to look in all 4 directions - left and right and up and down. If they see it, that's great. If they don't, then pull the lower lids down and look up and see if it might be down in there. If it's not there the last place to check is under the upper lid where you put a little cotton swab and flip that lid open so you can see up underneath there. Once you've located it - a hair, a piece of dust, or a little tiny gnat - often the easiest way to get it out is by just gently touching it with a cotton swab. It may come off like that. Another thing you can do at home is to just wash the eye under warm water. You can do it under a sink. Stick your head under the sink and do it that way. Or you can get a little eye cup. Fill it with fluid and rinse that way. Put it up against your eye, let me take my glasses off here, and put it up against your eye, open and tilt your head back. I don't want to get any on my jacket so I'm not going to tilt my head back right now for you. Now that's how you get it out. If though there is an object that's embedded in the eye, don't do any of that stuff. Call the doctor right away and don't try to remove it.
Crouch ER, Crouch ER, Grant TR. Ophthalmology. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 17.
Knoop KJ, Dennis WR. Ophthalmologic procedures. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 62.
Thomas SH, Goodloe JM. Foreign bodies. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 53.
Last reviewed on: 11/15/2019
Reviewed by: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.