Removing a particle in the eye
The eye will often clear itself of tiny objects, like eyelashes and sand, through blinking and tearing.
If not, take these steps:
- Do not rub the eye. Wash your hands before examining it.
- Examine the eye in a well-lighted area. To find the object, look up and down, then from side to side.
- If you can't find the object, grasp the lower eyelid and gently pull down on it to look under the lower eyelid. To look under the upper lid, you can place a cotton-tipped swab on the outside of the upper lid and gently flip the lid over the cotton swab.
- If the object is on an eyelid, try to gently flush it out with water. If that does not work, try touching a second cotton-tipped swab to the object to remove it.
- If the object is on the eye, try gently rinsing the eye with water. It may help to use an eye dropper positioned above the outer corner of the eye. Do NOT touch the eye itself with the cotton swab.
- If you have been hammering, grinding, or otherwise exposed to possible high-velocity metal fragments, do NOT attempt any removal. Go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
A scratchy feeling or other minor discomfort may continue after removing eyelashes and other tiny objects. This will go away within a day or two. If you continue to have discomfort or blurred vision, get medical help.
For larger objects or other eye emergencies, see eye emergency first aid.
Knoop KJ, Dennis WR, Hedges JR. Ophthalmologic procedures. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 63.
Butler FK Jr. The eye in the wilderness. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 25.
Review Date: 10/27/2009
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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