What are foreign bodies?
A foreign body is any object in your child’s eye that isn’t supposed to be there. The foreign object may be in the conjunctiva. This is a thin membrane that covers the actual eye. Or it may be in the cornea. This is the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye.
What causes foreign bodies in the eye?
The most common foreign bodies in the conjunctiva include:
- Contact lenses
The most common foreign bodies in the cornea include:
- Pieces of metal
- Pieces of rusty objects
What are the symptoms of foreign bodies in the eye?
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They may include:
- Feeling like there’s a foreign object in the eye
- Eye pain, especially when looking at light
- Tearing of the eye
- Blinking a lot
The symptoms of foreign bodies in the eye may look like symptoms of other eye issues or health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is a foreign body in the eye diagnosed?
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s health history. He or she will also give your child an eye exam. Your child may get local numbing (anesthetic) eye drops for the exam.
Your child’s healthcare provider may also order a fluorescein stain. This test can tell if there is an abrasion in your child’s cornea. For this test, your child’s healthcare provider will place a small amount of a dye into your child's eye. This won’t hurt your child. Then, your child’s healthcare provider will use a special light to look at the surface of the cornea to see an abrasion or scratch.
How is a foreign body in the eye treated?
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Removal of the foreign body
If your child’s healthcare provider sees a foreign body, he or she may remove it. He or she may use a small cotton applicator to do this. Or he or she may wash your child’s eye out with saline.
The provider may put an antibiotic ointment in your child's eye.
Evaluation by an eye doctor
If your child’s healthcare provider can’t remove the foreign body or if your child is in a lot of pain, your child may need to see a specialist. Your child’s healthcare provider may refer your child to an ophthalmologist or optometrist. These are doctors with special training to treat eye problems.
An eye patch
If your child has a scratch or injury to the cornea (corneal abrasion), he or she may need to wear an eye patch. This can make your child more comfortable. Your child may need to wear the patch for 12 to 24 hours. Your child’s healthcare provider may use a soft contact lens instead of a traditional patch. Your child may also need an antibiotic eye ointment.
If your child’s abrasion is severe, your child will need to see an eye doctor. Severe abrasions increase the risk for eye damage.
Your child may need a tetanus shot after the foreign body is taken out. This depends on what the foreign body was. It also depends on the vaccines your child has already had.
Your child will need follow-up care with his or her healthcare provider after the foreign body is removed.