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
  • Sawdust
  • Dirt
  • Sand
  • 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


  • Do not drive with an eye patch on, it can be very difficult to calculate distances correctly.
  • You can remove the patch, usually the next day, or as directed by your doctor.
  • If you have any eye discomfort, you can take a pain reliever that contains paracetamol or ibuprofen. Follow the package directions carefully.
  • Avoid working with machinery or at heights.
  • You may be advised to use drops or ointment to stop the infection. Follow your doctor's advice on how often to apply them. You will need to continue treatment until your eye has healed.
  • Always wear safety glasses when working in windy or dusty areas, and especially when working in a place where debris is likely to escape.
  • ear safety glasses or goggles with tight-fitting side shields.
  • Do not stand or walk near anyone who is polishing or drilling.
  • Wear safety glasses when playing sports like tennis or squash.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long can a foreign object stay in your eye?

Some foreign objects can be easily removed and do not harm the eye. Others are more difficult to remove and can damage the eye. With proper treatment, symptoms of a mild corneal abrasion almost always improve or disappear completely within 24 to 48 hours.

2. How to get rid of eye particles?

Try to blink to allow your tears to wash away. Don't rub your eye. If the particle is behind your upper eyelid, pull the upper eyelid out and over the lower eyelid and turn the eye upward. This can help the particle get out of the upper eyelid and out of the eye.

3. How is an object treated in the eye?

Use an eyepiece or a small clean glass placed with its rim resting on the bone at the base of the eye socket. Another way to remove a foreign object from your eye is to get into a shower and direct a gentle stream of warm water on your forehead over the affected eye while holding the lid open.

4. Does the eye expel foreign objects?

A foreign object can be a piece of dust, sand, or other substance that comes into contact with the eye. Most of the time, these objects are so small that we don't notice them, and when they enter the eye, they are harmless and easily removable.