Mea tauiwi ki te karu Foreign object in the eye

Often, when people get something in their eyes, it flushes out as their eyes water, and they blink. But if you or someone else has something in your eye and it is not coming out naturally, it is important to deal with it as soon as possible.

How to tell if someone has an object in their eye

If someone has an object in their eye, they may:

  • have a watering eye
  • have redness in their eye
  • blink a lot
  • have loss of vision
  • feel pain
  • feel something in their eye.

Sometimes the eye is very irritated even though you cannot see anything in it. This could be because there is still something in there.

It is common for people working with metal who are not wearing safety glasses to get small flecks in their eye. But these do not easily come out by themselves and can become embedded.

It is important to always wear safety glasses whenever there is a risk of injury.

Helping someone who has an object in their eye

  • Tell the person not to touch or rub their eye.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Sit the person in a well-lit area and gently pull their eyelid away from their eye to see if you can see what is in it.
  • If you can see something in the corner of their eye or under their lid, try to gently wipe it out with the corner of a clean piece of material or tissue.
  • If you can see something floating on the surface of their eye, try to wash it out. Tilt their head back with the affected eye lower than the good eye and rinse the eye with plenty of clean water. You can also use a shower with a gentle stream of water. Make sure the affected eye is held open.
  • If you can see something but cannot get it out, or if the irritation continues, take them to their healthcare provider.

Do not try to remove an object if it is embedded in any part of the eye.

When to seek medical help immediately

Seek medical help immediately if:

  • the object is sticking out of the person's eye or eyelid
  • the object is embedded in their eye
  • they have decreased vision
  • they have an irregularly shaped pupil (the black dot at the centre of the eye).

When to seek medical help as soon as possible

Take the person to their healthcare provider if:

  • what is in their eye does not wash out
  • their eye pain does not get better.

Clinical review

This content was written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. It has been adapted for Health Information and Services.

Clinical advisers — HealthInfo (external link)

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