Eye Foreign Body

What is an eye foreign body?

An eye foreign body is an object that gets stuck in your eye. Tiny pieces of metal, dust, wood, and sand are the most common objects.

What are the signs and symptoms of an eye foreign body?

  • The feeling that something is in your eye

  • Eye pain, redness, or watering

  • Sensitivity to light

How is an eye foreign body diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask about your symptoms and examine your eye. You may need more than one of the following:

  • Visual acuity test: This test checks your vision and eye movements.

  • Lid eversion: This test checks for a foreign body under your eyelid. Your eyelid is gently flipped inside out to check for injury.

  • Slit-lamp test: A microscope is used to look into your eye and check for injury. A dye may be used to look for scratches or other damage to your eye.

  • Imaging tests: If the foreign body is hard to see or deep inside your eye, you may need any of the following:

    • X-ray: This is a picture of your eye to help find the foreign body.

    • Ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to find the foreign body. Pictures of your eye show up on a monitor.

    • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your eye. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

How is an eye foreign body treated?

  • Irrigation: A warm liquid flushes out the foreign body.



  • Removal: Caregivers may use a cotton swab to lift the foreign body off your eye. They may need to use a needle or other instrument to gently scrape the foreign body off your eye. Numbing medicine will be put on your eye before foreign body removal.

  • Medicines:

    • Eyedrops: Artificial tears may help soothe your irritated eye.

    • Antibiotic eye medicine: This is used to treat or prevent an infection. It may be given as eyedrops or as an ointment.

    • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's doctor.

    • Pain medicines: You may need prescription pain medicine to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.

What are the risks of an eye foreign body?

  • The foreign body may scratch your eye. It may be stuck deep in your eye. Your eye may be cut or damaged as the foreign body is removed. Your caregiver may not be able to remove the foreign body. In this case, you will need to see an ophthalmologist to have the object removed. It may feel like the foreign body is still there, even after it is removed. A metallic foreign body may leave a rust ring on your eye. This rust ring may not go away.

  • Without treatment, a foreign body can cause permanent vision loss. It can also cause an eye infection, swelling, tissue damage, or scarring.

How can I prevent another eye injury?

  • Do not rub your eye.

  • Do not wear contact lenses until your eye is healed, or as directed.

  • Always wear safety glasses, eye shields, or goggles when you do construction work.

  • Rest your eyes as directed. Ask your caregiver if you should avoid reading or computer work.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • Your symptoms do not get better, even after the foreign body is removed.

  • You have white or yellow fluid draining from your eye.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your pupil looks misshapen.

  • You have decreased or blurry vision.

  • You have new or worse eye swelling.

  • You have severe eye pain.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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