Foreign body in the eye: Causes, diagnosis and treatment

Abnormalities in the eye are very common. In some cases, the infected person can remove the foreign body on their own. But in fact, there are still cases where a doctor's intervention will be needed to avoid affecting the eyes. Read the following article to learn more about foreign bodies in the eye, their causes, diagnosis and effective treatment methods.


1. What is a foreign body in the eye?

This is a condition when a foreign object (such as dust or tiny object) gets into the eye. The disease is very common, which can range from mild such as those caused by wind blowing dust into the eye, to severe cases such as a foreign body deeply damaged in the eyeball. When a foreign body gets into the eye, it can affect the cornea or conjunctiva.  

>> You may be interested: Conjunctivitis signs, causes and treatment.

Foreign body in the eye: Causes, diagnosis and treatment

The cornea is a transparent dome that covers and protects the front of the eye. The conjunctiva is the thin mucous membrane that covers the sclera, the white of the eye

Foreign bodies stick to the front part of the eye and can't get into the eyeball, but they can cause scratches on the cornea. Lesions are usually not dangerous. However, in some cases, a foreign body can cause an infection or impair your vision.

2. Common foreign bodies in the eye

A foreign body in the eye can cause mild to very uncomfortable discomfort, but is usually not dangerous.

The most common types of foreign bodies in the eye are:

  • Eyelash.
  • Stainless eyes.
  • Sawdust.
  • Dust.
  • Cosmetics.
  • Contact lens.
  • Metal beads.
  • Glass shards.

They get into the eyes due to strong and accidental concussions. Some cases of eye contact are caused by explosions, accidents with working tools such as hammers, drills or cutters. Foreign objects entering the eye at high speed pose a risk of injury.

3. Signs of foreign body in the eye

Common manifestations include:

  • Feeling tight or uncomfortable.
  • Stingy feeling in the eyes.
  • Eye pain, red eyes .
  • Tears a lot.
  • Eye pain when looking at light.
  • Blink continuously.

Foreign body penetration deep into the eye is rare. These cases are usually caused by a high-speed impact such as an explosion. A foreign body that enters the eye is called a foreign body in the eyeball. Accompanying symptoms of a foreign body in the eye include discharge or blood from the eye.

4. When should you consult a doctor?

  • The foreign body cannot be removed by rinsing the eye with water.
  • Foreign body in the eye with fluid or blood.
  • Abnormal vision.
  • Eye pain, redness, or a feeling of a lump in the eye persists after the foreign body has been removed.

Foreign body in the eye: Causes, diagnosis and treatment

There are some cases of foreign body in the eye that must see a doctor for support

5. How to diagnose foreign body in the eye?

First, your doctor will check your ability to see clearly.

In the next part of the examination, the doctor shines a light through a small slit into the eye and looks through a microscope. This helps doctors see the cornea, iris, lens, and fluid in the eye clearly. The doctor begins a general examination of the eyelids, eyeballs, and irises.

Use a cotton swab to turn the eyelid upside down (inside out) to examine the underside of the eyelid.

The eye may be anesthetized with pain medication and instilled fluorescent dye. Examine the lamp with blue light to look for scratches on the cornea or a leak of aqueous humor – the clear liquid at the front of the eyeball.

Depending on the severity of the eye injury, there are indications for treatment.

6. Methods of treatment

  • For corneal abrasions, the main treatment is antibiotic ointments - antibiotic eye drops and pain relievers. If the scratch is large, surgery may be required to patch the cornea.
  • More serious damage to the iris, lens, or retina should be evaluated immediately by an ophthalmologist to decide if you need surgery.
  • If the eyeball is ruptured, you need immediate eye surgery.
  • Hemorrhages to the cornea and iris, even without any other trauma, should be monitored.

7. What can you do when you suspect a foreign body in your eye?

You need timely treatment to avoid infection and protect your eyesight. Take the following steps before starting home care:

  • Wash hands.
  • Check that the eye remains responsive to light.
  • Examine the eyes for foreign bodies by looking up: while pulling the lower eyelid down and similarly looking down: while turning the upper eyelid up.

The safest technique to remove a foreign body from your eye will vary depending on the type of foreign body and its location in the eye.

Foreign body in the eye: Causes, diagnosis and treatment

The way to remove foreign bodies in the eye will vary from case to case

7.1. How to remove foreign body under upper eyelid?

  • Immerse the affected eye in water and blink several times to remove the foreign body.
  • Similar results can be achieved with a specialized eyewash cup.
  • If the foreign body is trapped, pull the upper eyelid out and bring it down to allow the object to fall out.

7.2. For foreign bodies located in the lower eyelid

  • Pull down on the lower eyelid or press down on the skin under the eyelid to see the foreign body underneath.
  • If the foreign body is visible, use a damp cloth to remove it.
  • For a solid foreign body, flush the eyelid repeatedly with the eye open using a medical safety device.
  • You can also try using a specialized eyewash that removes foreign bodies.

7.3. For small pieces

For foreign objects that are as small as grains of sand in the eye, try to get them all instead of taking them out individually. How to do this:

  • Use a wet cloth to clean the particles in the area around the eyes.
  • Immerse the eye with the foreign object in the water and blink several times to let the particles drift with the water.
  • For young children, put warm water in the eyes instead of soaking them. Hold the child's face up. Keep your eyelids open as you put water in your eyes to let the particles wash away. This works best when one person drops the water and another person holds the baby's eyelids open.

Remember to always be careful with your eyes. Check back in 24 hours to make sure there aren't any unusual symptoms. You should contact your doctor as needed.

Dr. Le Hoang Ngoc Tram