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One of the most uncomfortable sensations you can experience is having something stuck in your eye. Usually, it’s a little more than a nuisance. However, it can be painful, and if you cannot remove the object in your eye, damage can occur.
In many cases, your eye will water from the irritation caused by the foreign object. This usually washes away whatever it is. Unless you have a problem with tears or lubrication, your eyes are designed to wash away foreign matter and deal with occasional debris.
When you get a small object in your eye – an eyelash, a piece of fuzz, or something comparable – you’ll be able to remove it without medical attention.
As long as you can see the object when you look in the mirror and get a grip on it, you can pull it from your eye. Just make sure you wash your hands before you begin touching your eye and the area around your eyes.
The most important thing to remember if you have something in your eye is that you should never rub it. Rubbing your eye when there’s a foreign object in it puts you at risk of corneal abrasion.
It’s also important never to use a cotton swab or tweezers to remove an object. This might seem like a good way to capture an object you can’t grip with your fingers. However, putting these objects near your eyes is dangerous.
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Getting something stuck in your eye usually isn’t dangerous, but it can be. Foreign objects and debris in your eyes put you at risk of:
If your eyes are exposed to chemicals or irritants, you’ll need to flush your eyes with water immediately. Most of the time, this happens when household cleaners or industrial chemicals splash into your eye.
If this happens, you’ll need to rinse your eyes with clean water or saline water for at least 15 minutes. Many people have eyewash stations at work if they are working around chemicals or dangerous liquids. It’s also important to wear protective eyewear if you’re working with strong liquids or chemicals.
To rinse your eye after exposure, hold your eye open and allow the water or solution to rinse the eye thoroughly.
Depending on the chemical and your success with flushing your eye after exposure, you’ll want to follow up with a visit to your doctor. A professional can determine if any serious harm occurred.
If you wear contact lenses and get chemicals in your eyes, make sure you remove the contact lens from the affected eye and rinse it for at least 15 minutes.
The first thing to do if you get a foreign object in your eye is to let nature run its course. Most people’s eyes water when there’s a foreign object causing irritation. Sometimes this is enough to flush out the foreign object.
If this doesn’t work, try flushing it out with clean water or a sterile saline solution. You might need to do this for several minutes to remove the object.
If the foreign body remains in your eye or you feel irritation once it’s removed, contact your eye doctor or visit the ER for an exam.
If the debris in your eye isn’t visible, but you can feel it irritating your eye, there’s a chance it’s slipped under your upper eyelid. To remove it, you’ll need to pull your upper eyelid down and then release it. The object might come out as your upper lid slides back into place. Holding your eye open and pulling the upper lid outward as you flush it with water or saline solution might also work it loose.
If you get something stuck under your lower eyelid, you’ll need to press on the skin as you pull your eyelid out. Make sure you can see the pink on the underside of your lid. If you see the object, gently wipe it away with a wet cotton ball, being careful not to touch your eyeball.
Again, if this doesn’t work, try flushing it with a gentle stream of water as you hold your eyelid away from your eye.
Flushing your eye is always an option if you have something stuck in it. If your eyes are exposed to chemical irritants, you’ll want to flush your eye immediately.
Flushing with water or saline solution is also helpful if you can’t get small debris out of your eye or if you have more than one speck of debris in your eye.
In some cases, you’ll need to visit your doctor if there’s something in your eye. Seek medical attention if:
Your eye doctor will examine your eye for scratches or other damage. They might also give you medication to prevent or treat an infection. If an object pierces your eye, you’ll need to undergo special testing to evaluate the damage.
You should visit the emergency room immediately if your eye is punctured or pierced.
“Foreign Object in the Eye: First Aid.” Mayo Clinic.
“Eye Protection | Environmental Health and Safety.” www.stonybrook.edu.
“Don’t Rub It! First Aid Tips for 5 Eye Irritants + Injuries.” Cleveland Clinic, 31 Dec. 2020.
“Eye Injuries - Foreign Body in the Eye.” Vic.gov.au, 2012,.
“Eye - Foreign Object.” Seattle Children’s Hospital.