Health conditions

Eye injury – foreign object in the eye

A small speck of wood, metal or sand lodged in the clear surface of the eye is called a corneal foreign body.

A corneal abrasion occurs when the cornea is scratched and it feels like something is stuck in the eye.

The eye may be red, painful and weepy / teary.

A doctor may need to remove the foreign object by using either a needle or a burr and a cotton tip.

A small scratch will heal in one to two days. Larger scratches will take longer to heal.

Home care

Once the foreign object has been removed, follow these do's and do not's.

Do:

  • wear dark glasses if required, for the next 1 to 2 days
  • if prescribed, use ointments or eye drops as directed and store them in the fridge
  • take simple pain relief like paracetamol, following the directions on the packet or if prescribed other pain relief, take as directed
  • if applied, keep the eye pad or patch on for the next 24 hours
  • attend any follow up appointments.

Do not:

  • rub or scratch the affected eye
  • drive a vehicle or operate machinery if a patch has been placed over the eye
  • wear contact lenses until the eye is healed.

Hints for using eye drops or ointments

  • always wash your hands before applying eye drops or ointments
  • gently pull the lower eyelid down whilst tilting the head backwards
  • drop the liquid or squeeze a small amount of ointment along the inside of the lower lid ensuring that there is no contact between the eye and the bottle or tube.

See your family GP or go to an emergency department if any of the following develop

  • pain increases in the eye despite taking painkillers
  • a change in vision, especially any sudden loss of vision
  • blurred vision or black spots in your vision or blindness
  • a discharge coming from the eye that is blood stained or unusual (increased tear production is normal)
  • fever

Prevention

  • Always wear good eye protection when doing something that is likely to create fine airborne particles such as grinding, drilling, welding or shaving wood. Safety goggles should be close fitting with side shields.
  • If you get a foreign object in your eye, rinse with water but if it does not wash out, then seek medical attention.
  • NEVER attempt to remove the object yourself.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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