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A Guide For A Foreign Body In The Eye

Jul 23, 2008
From the occasional eyelash that wanders uninvited into your eye to the high-speed missile impact from an ejected metal shard, you may find yourself with something in your eye (medically referred to as a foreign body). Depending on what it is and how the injury happened, the foreign body may pierce the eye and cause serious injury or it may simply go away with no long-term problem.

Most people realize that an eyelash in the eye does not require an evaluation by a doctor but that a metal shard in your eye would warrant a visit to your ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in eye care and surgery), particularly if it has penetrated beyond the superficial layers of the surface of the eye.

Many eye injuries can be prevented. Something in your eye (a foreign body) is most often the result of improper or no eye protection while working in an environment that exposes you to small flying debris.

Eye foreign body symptoms include sharp pain in your eye followed by burning, irritation, tearing, and redness. Feeling that something is in your eye when moving your eye around while it is closed. Scratching sensation over your eye when blinking. Blurred vision or vision loss in the affected eye. Bleeding into the white part of your eye, which can be either a conjunctival hemorrhage or a subconjunctival hemorrhage (Sometimes, this is associated with a penetrating injury.)

Blood layering in front of your iris, the colored area of your eye, and behind the cornea, the clear dome on the front of your eye (This is called hyphema and is often a sign of significant injury.)

Because of the specialized nature of eye examination equipment, a foreign body in your eye is usually handled best in your ophthalmologist's office. If an emergency department has the necessary equipment, your ophthalmologist may also see you in the emergency department after hours if necessary. In some cases, a foreign body in your eye may be handled in an emergency department that has both a properly trained emergency physician and the appropriate equipment.

The most important aspect in deciding to seek medical attention has to do with your own evaluation of the severity of the injury. A few guidelines should be followed in deciding to have your eyes evaluated. If you do not meet these guidelines, but you are concerned that there may be significant damage, then it is always safer to be evaluated by your ophthalmologist or in a hospitals emergency department.

All children with eye injuries should be evaluated, especially if they complain of any visual problems, scratching sensation, or pain.

Adults should seek medical attention for the following: You feel something going into your eye after hitting metal on metal, such as hammering a nail.

You have removed the foreign body from your eye and continue to have a sensation that something is in your eye, or you continue to have pain and tearing after removal of the object. You are unable to remove the foreign body from your eye.

Your vision is blurry or otherwise compromised (eg, blind spots, seeing "stars"). You are bleeding from your eye or the area around your eye (including cuts to your eyelid or eyebrow). Clear or bloody fluid is coming from your eyeball.
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