A foreign object in the eye is something that enters the eye from outside the body. It can be anything that doesn't naturally belong there, from a particle of dust to a fragment of metal. It more likely affects the cornea or conjunctiva when a foreign substance approaches the eye.
What are Foreign Objects in the Eyes?
From a particle of dust to a lodged pencil, a foreign substance in the eye may be anything. Foreign objects are harmless much of the time and easy to remove. Foreign objects and debris in the eye often affect the cornea or conjunctiva. The cornea is a translucent layer with iris and pupil protection. The conjunctiva is the thin layer that covers the inside of the eyelid and the white of the eye. These injuries are usually minor. However, some types of foreign objects can cause infections or damage your vision.
Because of mishaps that arise during daily tasks, often foreign objects penetrate the conjunctiva of the body. The following are the most prominent forms of foreign objects in the eye:
- Dry mucus
- Cosmetic products
- Contact lenses
- Metal particles
- Glass shards
Fragments of dirt and sand usually enter the eye due to wind or falling debris. As a consequence of fires or collisions of devices such as hammers, drills, sharp objects such as metal or glass may penetrate the eye. Foreign objects entering the eye at high speed pose the greatest risk of injury.
The first part of an eye exam is to assess visual acuity. The next part of the exam, which is usually performed only by an ophthalmologist or a doctor in the emergency department, is the slit lamp exam. As you sit in a chair with your chin on a support, the doctor illuminates the eye with a small slit of light and looks through a microscope. This helps the doctor see the cornea, iris, lens, and fluid in the eye.
The doctor begins with a general examination of the visible parts of the eye. The eyelids, eyeballs, and iris are examined.
During this part of the exam, the doctor makes sure that the pupil is symmetrical and reacts properly to light, that there is no obvious injury to the eyeball, and that no foreign bodies are visible in the eye.
The eye can be numbed with pain relievers, and a fluorescent dye can be applied to the eye. Blue light can help look for scratches on the cornea or evidence of leakage of watery fluid, which is the clear fluid that fills the front of the eyeball.
While the eye is numb, a tonometer can monitor the pressure in the eye. The eyelid can be upside down with a cotton swab to give a better view of the lower part of the eyelid.
Depending on the severity of the eye injury, the final part of the exam involves dilating (enlarging) the pupil with eye drops. The inside of the eye and the retina can then be evaluated to make sure there are no foreign bodies inside the eyeball and that there is no damage to the retina.
The doctor or nurse checks your vision. Medical treatment generally includes:
- Once they find the foreign body, they gently remove it after numbing the eye with anesthetic eye drops. If it is central or deep, they will arrange for you to see an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) have it removed.
- Your eye may be flushed with saline (sterile saltwater) to remove dust and dirt.
- X-rays may be done to check if an object has entered your eyeball or orbit.
- Your eye may be patched to rest and heal any scratches.
- Until the eye patch is replaced and your vision has returned to normal, you will be told not to drive.
- Your doctor will want to see you again to check that your eye is healing and that your vision is fine. You must not miss this appointment. Even if you feel better, your eye may not have completely healed. Follow-up is needed to make sure treatment is working.
- If there is any serious problem or residual oxide ring, they will send you to an ophthalmologist.
When to visit a Doctor?
Most of the time, at home, a foreign substance should be removed from the eye. It is a safe decision, though, to see an eye doctor if:
- Moderate or severe pain after object removal
- Vision changes occur
- The eye is bleeding or a watery discharge comes out
- There is glass or a chemical in the eye
- The object was sharp or rough
- The object entered the eye at high speed