Anyone who has felt as if there was a
grain of sand in his or her eye has probably had a foreign body. Foreign
bodies might be superficial, or in more serious injuries, they may
penetrate the eye. Fortunately, the cornea has such an incredible reflex
tearing system that most superficial foreign bodies are naturally
flushed out with our natural tears. But if the object is more deeply
embedded, medical attention is required.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The symptoms of a foreign body may range from irritation to intense,
excruciating pain. This is dependent on the location, material, and type
situations where an object penetrates the eye, there may be few or no
symptoms. If you have no symptoms, but suspect an object may have
penetrated your eye, seek medical attention. The
entry point of an intraocular foreign body is sometimes nearly
invisible. Depending on their location, foreign bodies inside the eye
may or may not cause pain or decreased vision.
• Mild to extreme
• Intense pain
• Light sensitivity
• Decreased vision
• Difficulty opening the eye
DETECTION AND DIAGNOSIS
includes vision testing along with careful examination of the surface of
the eye with a slit lamp microscope. When a superficial foreign body is
suspected, the upper lid should be gently turned up to check underneath
for trapped particles. If the foreign body is difficult to see even with
a microscope, the doctor may instill a drop of fluorescein dye to
highlight the area.
An examination inside the eye with
ophthalmoscopy may also be indicated depending on the severity of the
If a foreign object becomes embedded within
the cornea, conjunctiva, or sclera, a medical professional must remove
it. Attempting to remove it yourself is dangerous and could result in a
permanent scar that could affect your vision.
foreign bodies are usually treated in the office. After numbing the eye
with topical anesthetic, the particle is carefully removed using a
microscope. Afterward, antibiotic medications are generally prescribed
to prevent infection. In some cases, foreign bodies become trapped
underneath the eyelid. It is extremely important to examine under the
eyelid for any remnant particles.
Intraocular foreign bodies
typically must be removed in the operating room using a microscope and
special instruments designed for working inside the eye. These injuries
are often vision threatening and should be treated quickly.
Wearing appropriate safety glasses is the best way to prevent this type
of injury. Protecting the eyes is especially important when working with
machinery that could cause chips of wood or metal to splinter, as well
lawn equipment such as hedge and line trimmers.
If a particle of
wood, glass, metal or any other foreign substance becomes trapped in
your eye, here are some tips:
• Do not touch or rub your eye!
This can embed the object more deeply, making it more difficult to
• Keep your eye closed as much as possible. Blinking only
increases the irritation.
• Do not try to remove the object yourself.
This is very dangerous and may make the problem worse.
professional help immediately.
• Tell your doctor what you were doing
at the time of the injury, or what materials you may have been working
The McMann Eye Institute is a comprehensive ophthalmology practice
offering a full spectrum of vision correction and treatment services.