Foreign Objects in the Eye

Aside from cuts, scratches, chemical exposures, and burns, one of the eye emergencies is having foreign objects in the eye. Since our eye is susceptible to damage, this condition can lead to serious problems like loss of vision if left untreated.

Look for symptoms

You should identify signs and symptoms first before giving first aid to a person who has a foreign object in his or her eyes. Symptoms include loss of vision, decreased vision, eye pain, double vision, bruising, itchy eyes, unequal size of pupil, headache, and bleeding or discharge around or from the eye.

Symptoms also include redness (bloodshot appearance) of the eye, sensitivity to light, sensation of having something in the eye, and burning or stinging in the eye. If you see any of these symptoms, you should act quickly and follow the steps below.

Tiny object in the eye

Our eyes often clear themselves of small objects, such as sand and eyelashes, through blinks and tears. If these tiny objects are not removed, however, do not let the person rub his or her eye. Go to a well-lit area and examine the eye. Make sure that you wash your hands before you look at it. To find the object, ask him or her to look up and down, and then side to side.

Gently pull down the lower eyelid and look if the object is there. If you suspect the object is under the upper eyelid, place a cotton-tipped swab on the outside of the eyelid and flip it over the cotton swab. If you find the object, try to flush it out with saline solution or clean water. You can also remove the foreign object by touching a cotton-tipped swab to it. If the irritant is on the eye, gently rinse the eye with clean water. You can also use an eye dropper. Do not touch the eyeball with the cotton swab.

A scratchy feeling may continue even after the tiny object is removed. The discomfort usually goes away within one day. But if the person still experiences blurred vision or discomfort after two days, get medical help right away.

Object embedded or stuck in the eye

If an object is embedded or stuck in the eye, leave it in place and do not attempt removing it. What you have to do is to get medical help as soon as possible. While waiting for the arrival of the medical professionals, you should reassure and calm the person.

If the embedded object is small, get a sterile dressing or clean cloth to cover both eyes. If it is large, tape a cone or paper cup in place over the injured eye. Cover the uninjured eye using clean cloth or gauze. You need to cover both eyes to prevent eye movement.