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It's not uncommon for a speck of dirt or a small object, such as an eyelash or makeup, to get in your eye. Usually your natural tears will wash the object out. Objects may scratch the surface of the eye (cornea) or may become stuck on the eye. If the cornea is scratched, it can be hard to tell when you have gotten the object out, because a scratched cornea may feel painful and as though something is still in the eye. Most corneal scratches are minor and heal on their own in 1 or 2 days.
See a picture of the eye.
Small objects traveling at high speed or sharp objects traveling at any speed can cause serious injury to many parts of the eyeball. Injury may cause bleeding, a change in the size or shape of the pupil, a film over the eye lens, or damage to the inside of the eyeball. These objects may become embedded deep in the eye and may require medical treatment.
Objects in the eye can be prevented by using protective eyewear. Wear safety glasses, goggles, or face shields when working with power tools or chemicals or doing any activity that might cause an object or substance to get into your eyes. Some professions, such as health care and construction, may require workers to use protective eyewear to reduce the risk of foreign objects or substances or body fluids getting in the eyes.
For information about other types of eye injuries, such as blows to the eye, see the topic Eye Injuries.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Pain in adults and older children
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call911or other emergency services now.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
There are a couple of ways to safely remove an object from the eye.
Do not try to remove:
To remove a nonmetal object that is on the surface of the eye or inside the eyelid:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Applying first aid measures for an eye injury in a child may be difficult depending on the child's age, size, and ability to cooperate. Having another adult help you treat the child is helpful. Stay calm and talk in a soothing voice. Use slow, gentle movements to help the child remain calm and cooperative. A struggling child may need to be held strongly so that first aid can be started and the seriousness of the eye injury assessed.
Talk to your child’s doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
The following tips may help prevent eye injuries.
Eye injuries are common in children, and many can be prevented. Most eye injuries happen in older children. They occur more often in boys than in girls. Toys—from crayons to toy guns—are a major source of injury, so check all toys for sharp or pointed parts.
Teach children about eye safety:
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
If you have an object in the eye that affects your vision, have someone else drive you to your doctor. If you are wearing contact lenses, remove them, and take your glasses with you.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
Last Revised: December 23, 2011
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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