John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
One should be able to care for minor debris in the eye at home. If one has trouble removing something in the eye or if a larger or sharper object is involved, seek medical attention. If one is wearing a contact lens, it should be removed prior to trying to remove the foreign body. One should not put the contact lens back into the eye until the eye is completely healed.
For minor foreign bodies, such as an eyelash, home care is usually adequate.
Begin by rinsing the eye with a saline solution (the same solution used to rinse contact lenses). Tap water or distilled water may be used if no saline solution is available. Water will effectively flush out the eye, but the chlorine in most tap water can cause varying levels of irritation. How one washes out the eye is less important than getting it washed out with great amounts of water.
A water fountain makes a great eye wash. Just lean over the fountain, turn on the water, and keep the eye open.
At a sink, stand over the sink, cup the hands, and put the face into the running water.
Hold a glass of water to the eye and tip the head back. Do this multiple times.
If one is near a shower, get in and put the eye under the running water.
If one is working outside, a garden hose running at a very modest flow will work.
If washing the eye is not successful, the object can usually be removed with the tip of a tissue or a cotton swab.
Pull back the eyelid by pulling down on the bottom edge of the lower lid or by pulling up on the upper edge of the upper lid.
Look up when evaluating for a foreign body under the lower lid.
Look down when evaluating for a foreign body under the upper lid. One will often need someone to help in this case.
Be very careful not to scrape the tissue or the cotton swab across the cornea, the clear dome over the iris.
For larger foreign bodies or metal pieces, one should seek medical care, even if they are able to safely remove them at home.
If the foreign body is easily accessible and has not penetrated the eyeball, one may be able to remove it carefully with a cotton swab or a tissue.
If one has any question about penetration of the eye, do not remove the object without medical assistance.
If one cannot remove the object or if one continues to have the sensation that something is in the eye even after the debris is removed, they should seek medical care.
After the foreign body is removed, the eye may be red and tearing.
It is very important not to rub the eye or to apply any pressure to the eye. If one has punched a hole in the eye (called a ruptured globe or eyeball), one can do
significant damage by pressing or rubbing your eye. This is especially true with small children who will rub their eyes to try to remove the debris.
Do not put any pressure on the injured eye, because it could cause additional injury to the eye. Do not tape over or patch the eye with any pressure on the injured eye.
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