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What to Do if You Get Something in Your Eye

When you get something in your eye, you may feel an impulse to rub furiously until the dust or dirt is gone. Don't.

Rubbing the eyelid can drag foreign bodies across the cornea, causing increased irritation and possibly scratching the cornea. The cornea, the clear portion of the eye covering the iris and pupil, has lots of nerve endings and is very sensitive. Scratching the cornea can cause excruciating pain, as many contact lens wearers know. In addition, vigorous rubbing may imbed foreign particles in the cornea or sclera, the white portion of the eyeball. This may result in further complications.

If a foreign body is imbedded in the sclera or cornea, you should not try to remove it. A scratched cornea or a foreign body are conditions that need to be treated by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist. Attempts to remove foreign bodies without proper equipment and expertise are seldom effective and often make the problem worse.

Here are several tips you should know if you get something in your eye:

  • If the material is dirt or a dust particle, try blinking your eyes quickly. This may dislodge the object.

  • Have a friend examine your eye to locate the material and determine if it can be easily removed.

  • Irrigate the eye with artificial tears or normal saline fluid.

  • Another tactic: Pull the upper lid down and out over the lower lid and let it slide back. This may be enough to dislodge the object.

  • If none of these approaches works, and the object remains lodged in your eye, you may need to seek medical attention. When a doctor removes an object from the eye, an anesthetic is given and a probe is used to dislodge the material. If a scratch is left after the object is removed, the doctor might put a patch on the eye until it heals.

  • If you get chemicals in your eye, immediately irrigate the eye with fresh water. Irrigation may be sufficient to remove a mild irritant from the eye. But if a corrosive chemical such as acid or a base such as lye gets into the eye, you will need medical attention even after you flush the eye thoroughly with water.

If your vision is blurred or you feel pain after removing a chemical - or any other object - from your eye, see your doctor.