Eye Debris: What To Do When You Have Debris In Your Eye

Adult Male Doctor Examining Patient

Debris in the eye can be defined as a foreign object that somehow enters the eye from the outside. It may be anything that doesn’t belong there naturally, from metal shards to sand and dust particles. When such debris enters the eye, it will most likely affect the conjunctiva or the cornea to some extent. 

The object that lands on the eye’s front part will be unable to get to the eyeball’s behind, but the debris can scratch the cornea, causing mostly minor injuries. Still, eye debris may cause more severe injuries and even damage the person’s vision. 

In this article, the team from Diamond Vision will discuss the basics of essential eye care, along with what to do to handle eye debris correctly. 

The Symptoms of a Foreign Object in the Eyes

The debris in the eye may produce several immediate signs. Most patients will experience the following:

  • Eye pain
  • A foreign-body sensation in the eye manifesting as discomfort or pressure
  • Extreme tearing
  • Feeling pain when the patient looks at light
  • Blinking excessively
  • Bloodshot eye and redness 

Foreign objects rarely penetrate the eye but usually enter due to intense impacts, like explosions, crashes, etc. Those objects that manage to penetrate the eye are referred to as intraocular objects and will be accompanied by additional symptoms such as fluid, discharge, or blood from the eye.

Causes of Eye Debris

Man Sanding Wood With Orbital Sander in a Workshop

Most commonly, these foreign objects enter the eye or the conjunctiva due to accidents that mostly happen during everyday activities. That said, the most prevalent foreign objects in the eyes are:  

  • Eyelashes
  • Sawdust
  • Dried mucus
  • Sand
  • Metal particles
  • Contact lenses
  • Cosmetics
  • Glass shards

Most often, debris like sand and dirt fragments get in the eye because of the wind or as falling debris. Metal and other sharp materials like glass most often enter the eye due to work accidents with lawnmowers, drills, and hammers or as a result of different accidents such as explosions. 

Addressing Foreign Objects in The Eyes With Emergency Care

These objects will most often require a prompt diagnosis and treatment to prevent vision loss and infection, especially when the patient is dealing with an intraocular object. 

Some might think that essential eye care in these cases starts with removing the object by themselves. This isn’t always advised as it could lead to even more severe eye damage. Immediate emergency care is required in cases when:

  • A sharp object with rough edges enters the eye
  • When the object is so large that the patient can’t close their eye properly
  • The object also contains chemicals
  • The object entered the eye at a high speed
  • The object is embedded in the eye and/or causes bleeding

Before getting to a medical expert, it’s highly advised to:

  • Bandage the eye with gauze or a clean cloth
  • Restrict movement in the affected eye
  • Cover the eye with a paper cup if the foreign object is too large

Covering the uninjured eye may help prevent movement in the other eye.

It’s also advised to seek medical assistance again after the object is removed if the patient is: 

  • Still experiencing that foreign-body sensation in the treated eye
  • Experiencing tearing, blinking, or abnormal vision
  • Seeing a cloudy spot in the cornea
  • Reporting that the eye’s overall condition is getting worse

Expert Care

If you have a constant foreign-body sensation in the eye, the best course of action would be to get emergency treatment. Especially in cases when:

  • You failed to remove to foreign object on your own
  • After removal, your vision remains blurred
  • You are still experiencing swelling, blinking, and tearing symptoms, and your condition worsens over time

In these cases, your physician will give an anesthetic drop to numb the area. After that, they will:

  • Use fluorescein dye that glows under a special light. This will be applied to the affected eye via drops, revealing abrasions and surface objects.
  • The doctor will use a magnifier to locate and remove the objects. 
  • The physician may also use a cotton swab to remove the debris in the eye or may use water.
  • Other instruments may also be used if the techniques above fail to remove the object.
  • If the debris has caused abrasions in the cornea, the doctor may give infection-preventing antibiotic ointments. 
  • In the case of more extensive abrasions, the physician may give acetaminophen to relieve the pain.
  • Imaging tests might also be performed in the case of intraocular objects.


If you manage to flush out the foreign object on your own, you may feel better in a matter of hours. During this time, the most prominent symptoms should also subside slowly, such as tearing, redness, and pain. Other signs you were experiencing, like minor discomfort or irritating sensation, may linger on for a day or a bit longer. 

The cells on the eye’s surface are also restored relatively quickly, which means that abrasions on the cornea will heal within three days without any infection. Still, an infection may be a concern in the case of dirt particles or any other object containing soil; if there aren’t any improvements within three days, calling your doctor is the best course of action. 

In the case of intraocular objects, recovery time will be longer. Additionally, these objects may lead to infections inside the eye, also referred to as endophthalmitis, which can lead to vision damage or even vision loss. 


Skilled Carpenter Cutting a Piece of Wood in His Woodwork Workshop

Sometimes, eye debris is difficult to avoid or even anticipate, as it often occurs during everyday activities.

Still, specific leisure or work activities are more likely to result in such an accident. If you are performing work that emits airborne objects that might land in your eye, the best thing to do is wear proactive eyewear or safety glasses to prevent these objects from landing in your eyes.

So, remember always to wear safety glasses while performing the following activities: 

  • Any work that involves using power tools, hammers, saws, or grinders
  • When you’re working with hazardous chemicals
  • When mowing the lawn
  • If a mishap does occur, avoid rubbing the eye because this can increase the damage by further extending the penetration of the foreign body further into the cornea or surrounding conjunctiva and sclera.

Essential Eye Care Starts With Prevention

As you can see, most accidents and mishaps can be prevented simply by wearing safety glasses. On the other hand, if something does get into your eyes, don’t rely entirely on self-medication to remove the debris. While flushing out foreign objects will be successful in most cases, you need to learn how to approach the problem to avoid risking causing even more damage. That said, always reach out to professionals to help you find relief and prevent further complications.

Feel free to contact us to learn techniques to remove small and harmless debris particles at home and get valuable aftercare recommendations. 

Lastly, you can always count on our help if an accident does occur. 

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