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Foreign Body in the Eye

Any material such as dust, sand or paint that gets into the eye is called a foreign body. Foreign bodies fall into two categories:

  • Superficial foreign bodies: these stick to the front of the eye or get trapped under one of the eyelids, but do not enter the eye.

  • Penetrating foreign bodies: these penetrate the outer layer of the eye (cornea or sclera) and enter the eye. These objects are usually travelling at high speed and are commonly made of metal.

Superficial foreign bodies are not usually serious, but may cause discomfort, red eyes and gritty sensation. If the superficial foreign body is stuck underneath the eyelid there may be pain with each blink.

A penetrating eye injury can be extremely serious as it may lead to blindness if not detected and treated promptly. Please seek consult with an eye doctor immediately should you have a foreign body enter your eye while perform high velocity activities such as grinding or hammering metal, especially when associate with pain or blurring of vision.

If you get a superficial foreign body in your eye, first-aid treatment such as gentle rinsing with warm water is appropriate. An 'eye bath' can make this easier to do on your own, or you can get someone to help rinse the eye from the side, with you lying down. 

Do not try to remove a foreign body with cotton buds or any other type of solid object. It is advisable to consult a doctor if you think you have a foreign body in your eye and it continues to cause irritation.

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