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Foreign body eye treatment

Getting something in the eye, also called a foreign body, can cause discomfort.

Things that can get in the eye include grit, pieces of wood or metal, or eyelashes.

Depending on what's in the eyes, home treatment or medical attention may be needed.

Self-care at home

For small things in the eye that are not sharp, including eyelashes, you may be able to treat the problem at home.

For larger objects, or sharp ones, seek medical advice.

If you get something in the eye and wear contact lenses, take them out until the object is removed and any pain or discomfort has gone.

Try not to rub the eye or put any pressure on it.

You can try to flush out small objects using clean water or special eye wash solution.

Using a shower attachment with a gentle flow or warm water over the open eye can help rinse out an object.

Otherwise, lean over a sink or bath with the affected eye lower than the unaffected one. Hold the head on a slant and pour water from a glass or cupped clean hand over the open eye.

Medical help

Don't try to remove anything that stays stuck in the eye. You could end up scratching the surface of the eye. Instead, seek medical advice from an optometrist or GP.

Urgent medical attention should be sought if the object hit the eye at speed, such as from drilling or grinding.

Some eye injuries need urgent hospital attention, including:

  • Severe or lasting eye pain
  • Foreign bodies that won't wash out at home
  • Vision affected, double vision, light sensitivity, flashing sensation, spots before the eyes, halos or shadows
  • Blood seen in the eye
  • Pupil is an irregular shape.

A doctor or nurse may numb the eye with special drops before trying to remove the object with water or a swab.

If the eye has been damaged, antibiotic eye drops may be recommended to help prevent infection.

Preventing foreign bodies in the eyes

It is not always possible to stop things getting in your eyes, but wearing protective goggles when using drills or grinders, and for any DIY tasks, can help protect the eyes.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 27, 2016

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