Foreign Body in Eye: What to Do (FLUSH!) and What Not To Do (Everything Else)

If you get something in your eye, flush it with saline (if you have it) or tepid water (if you don't have saline). That's it! Simple! If that doesn't work...STOP! Everything else you could try will probably make it worse. Here is a short list of things people often tell me they have tried to remove foreign material from their eye, along with the result I see when they finally get here: credit card (makes a HUGE mess of your corneal epithelium, almost always fails) Q-tip (makes a mess) magnet (this never, ever works. NEVER. can't be good for your eye) heavy eye rubbing (just swells your lids up) someone else's tongue (I can't believe I have to type this, but obviously I do. doesn't work AND promotes bacterial infection) If you cannot see something in your eye, STOP TRYING TO REMOVE IT. We get a few of these every week, usually contact lens wearers who swear there is a "piece of contact lens" stuck in their eye. They try and try and try and dig and dig and dig trying to remove it, even tho they can't see it. IT IS USUALLY NOT THERE. That's why they are unable to remove it. No kidding 9 times out of 10 when a patient thinks there is a contact lens or a piece of one "stuck" in there, it's not there. They're just feeling what we call "foreign body sensation", which means their eye is swollen or inflamed or irritated and it's sending a signal that there's something in there. When they dig and dig and dig, they just compound all of their problems. If you flush and you can't remove the foreign body that you see, or you can't get rid of the foreign body sensation of something you CAN'T see...JUST. STOP. Come in to the eye doc. We can get it out quickly and painlessly and we won't make a big mess of your cornea, or we can confirm that there's nothing in there so you can stop digging and causing more damage! To summarize: FLUSH! That's it! Don't do anything else! Reserve everything else for the optometrist!


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