How to Properly Remove Foreign Material from the Eye

Having foreign matter stuck in your eye is not just annoying, it can also be downright dangerous. It can impair your vision when left untreated or removed improperly. Foreign matter can be anything from a harmless (but nonetheless irritating) dust particle to something that can seriously damage your eyes like a metal shard or a piece of glass. As the title implies, foreign objects enter the eye from outside the body, with the most common types including eyelashes, dried mucus, sawdust, dirt, sand, and even metal particles, to name a few.

You’ll know that something is in your eye when you get the urge to blink excessively and get an itchy, burning sensation that makes you tear excessively. You may also experience pain or discomfort when you look at light. Physically, your eye looks very red or bloodshot.

Where the damage occurs

When a foreign object enters the eye, it usually affects the cornea or the conjunctiva. The cornea is a clear dome that covers the front surface of the eye, which serves as the protective covering of this part of the eye. The conjunctiva, on the other hand, is the thin membrane that covers the white of your eye, called the sclera.

Keep in mind that when something lands on the front part of your eye, it does not get lost behind the eyeball.

Removing foreign matter the right way

Your safest bet in ensuring that your eye does not get damaged is to take a trip to the emergency room, especially if the foreign object has sharp or round edges, prevents you from closing your eye, contains harmful chemicals, or is causing your eye to bleed. However, if it bothers you too much and cannot wait for medical intervention, you can do first aid at home.

  • To avoid further injury, restrict eye movement and bandage the affected eye with a gauze or clean piece of cloth. If the object is too large, a paper cup must be used. Your uninjured eye must be covered as well to help prevent eye movement in the affected eye. It is critical that you do not rub or put pressure in your eye or use tweezers or cotton swabs to remove the foreign object.
  • If the foreign object is under the upper eyelid, you must immerse the side of your face with the affected eye in a flat container of water, and while the eye is underwater, open and close the eye several times. This flushes out the object. If it is still stuck, pull the upper lid and stretch it over the lower lid to loosen the object. Repeat until the object is flushed out.
  • If it is beneath the lower eyelid and visible, you can try tapping it gently with a damp cotton swamp. You can also try flushing it with water using the same procedure for the upper lid.

If you are unable to remove the object yourself, cover your eye and go to the emergency room, where a physician will examine the damage and remove the object via a procedure that best works for the type of object stuck, and the extent of the damage.