Foreign Body In The Eye
A foreign body in the eye is a small object under the eyelid or on the front surface of the eye that does not penetrate the eyeball itself.
What are the causes and risks of the injury?
Several things can lead to material entering the eye and being trapped under the lid. Airborne debris can fly into the eye. This might occur in a strong wind. It is also a risk when working around sawdust or grinding metal. It may also occur while doing yard work or working under a car.
What can be done to prevent the injury?
Safety glasses are an important means of prevention when there is foreign matter in the air. They should be worn in all situations where matter might enter the eye. These include:
- mowing the lawn
- working under a car
- working with sheet metal or wood
How is the injury recognized?
The healthcare professional diagnoses the condition by looking for the object under the eyelid or on the surface of the eye. Many injuries cannot be seen with the naked eye. A slit lamp exam uses a microscope and a rectangular light source to examine the cornea. Often, the cornea is stained with a dye called fluorescein.
What are the treatments for the injury?
Treatment of foreign bodies can begin at the site of the injury. Chemicals or small debris in the eye may be removed by rinsing the eye thoroughly with water. Some good options for rinsing the eye include:
- a glass or other container full of water
- a shower
- a sink
- a water fountain
The eyelids must be held apart so that all parts of the eye are washed. This washing must be done within minutes of the injury. The corner of a facial tissue or the tip of a cotton applicator may be used to remove any remaining small debris.
Large foreign bodies or metal objects should be removed by the healthcare professional. The eye may be numbed with a local anesthetic. A cotton-tipped applicator moistened with saline or salt water may be used to remove the material. If this does not work, the object can be removed, under the microscope, with a small instrument. Once the object has been removed, antibiotic drops or ointments may be prescribed to prevent infection.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Drops, ointments, and oral antibiotics may cause allergic reactions or irritation.
What happens after treatment for the injury?
Most of the time, treatment is effective, and the person has no long-term effects from the injury. Severe injuries, however, may cause permanent visual impairments .
Sometimes the injured area will not heal, and the person will have recurrent corneal injuries. Antibiotic drops and rewetting drops to keep the cornea wet will usually help the eye heal. Frequent rewetting of the cornea is necessary, over months, to allow this area to heal completely. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.