Medically Reviewed by Dr. David Costa Navarro
Getting junk in the eye is common and it can feel uncomfortable. Often the garbage disappears by itself but if it gets stuck you may need treatment. If you have a corrosive substance in the eye, it is important that you get treatment quickly.
Corrosive substances such as caustic soda, lye, wet cement, stoppers and strong acids can seriously damage the eye. Therefore, it is important to immediately rinse the eye with lukewarm water and continue to rinse until you have come into contact with the health care or Poison Information Center.
- 1 Symptoms
- 2 When and where should I seek care?
- 2.1 If it’s in a hurry
- 2.2 Rinse with lukewarm water
- 2.3 Sometimes you can remove the garbage carefully
- 2.4 If children get rubbish in the eye
- 2.5 Scrubs on the eye usually heal by themselves
- 2.6 Rinse the eye immediately
- 2.7 Call the Poison Information Center for instructions
- 2.8 Then you rinse your eye
- 2.9 Read the table of contents
- 2.10 Most importantly, rinse immediately and seek care
- 3 Investigation
- 4 Treatment
- 5 Complications and sequelae
It is common to get debris in the eye. For example, grit, grass, snow, wood chips or fiberglass wool.
It can also be metal debris, such as rust, metal degrees or welding bumps. Metal debris that flies against the eye at very high speeds can get into the inside of the eye and cause very serious damage.
You may experience some of the following inconveniences if you have got junk in your eye:
- It feels like it is blinking in the eye when you blink. This may be because the debris has stuck under the eyelid or that the debris has left a scab on the cornea.
- The eye may turn red.
- You can look blurred.
- A lot of tears are formed when there is something in the eye that irritates. Sometimes the tear flow can be so strong that the eye is rinsed clean by itself.
Symptoms of corrosive substance in the eye
You may experience these problems if you have received corrosive substance in the eye:
- It stings, scratches and feels like you have something in your eye.
- You become sensitive to light.
- You look blurry.
- The eye turns red.
- The eye tears and becomes swollen.
Corrosive substances can seriously damage the eye. The tears of the eye cannot wash away corrosive substances. Therefore, it is important that you rinse your eye directly with lukewarm water and continue to rinse for at least fifteen minutes.
When and where should I seek care?
The vast majority of people who receive debris do not need to seek care. The debris often disappears as the eye tears, or if you rinse the eye with water or saline.
If you experience one or more of the following problems, please contact a health care center or an on-call clinic as soon as possible:
- You get worse eyesight.
- Your eyes become sensitive to light.
- You or your child have eye pain.
- You can’t rinse the garbage yourself.
Call telephone number 911 for medical advice. Then you can get help to assess symptoms or help with where you can seek care.
If it’s in a hurry
Contact a health care center or an on-call clinic immediately if you have any metal debris damage to your eye and have severe problems that do not go away. If closed, seek care at an emergency room.
Rinse the eye immediately if you have a strong corrosive substance in the eye. Call 112 as soon as you can and request the Poison Information Center. Continue rinsing the eye for at least fifteen minutes. If possible, you should rinse the eye during transport to the emergency room, if you are advised to go to the hospital urgently.
What can I do myself with junk in the eye?
It is often possible to remove debris on the eye by blinking a few extra times.
Avoid rubbing heavily as it may damage the eye if the debris remains on the eye.
Most often, discomfort, irritation, or a feeling that it is scraping within the eye disappears within a day after you have received debris in the eye that has caused a scrub on the eye. Sometimes the discomfort can disappear even after half an hour or an hour if the eye has a mild irritation on the cornea.
Rinse with lukewarm water
You can often remove the debris by rinsing the eye or blinking underwater a few times. The lukewarm liquid is more pleasing to the eye than cold liquid.
Sometimes you can remove the garbage carefully
Rubbish that sits inside the lower eyelid you can often see yourself. You should always try to rinse the garbage first. You can gently try to remove the debris with, for example, a moistened cotton swab if the debris remains despite rinsing your eye.
Rubbish that sits inside the upper eyelid you cannot remove on your own.
If you do not remove the debris, contact your healthcare provider.
If children get rubbish in the eye
You should seek care if your child has any debris left in the eye after rinsing, or if the child is very sore.
Scrubs on the eye usually heal by themselves
Scrapes on the eye after debris usually disappear within a day. Medicines cannot make wound healing faster.
What can I do for a corrosive substance in my eye?
Corrosive substances can seriously damage the eye, such as caustic soda, lye, wet cement, plug solvents and strong acids. Therefore, it is important that you immediately rinse your eye.
Rinse the eye immediately
Rinse the eye for at least fifteen minutes with lukewarm water if you have a corrosive substance in the eye.
You put a child in the shower most easily and rinse the child’s eyes and face.
Call the Poison Information Center for instructions
You should call 112 and request the Poison Information Center for instructions on how to treat damage from a certain corrosive substance. You also know if you need to seek emergency care.
Then you rinse your eye
This is important to keep in mind when rinsing your eye:
- Rinse the eye immediately if you have received a corrosive substance.
- The lukewarm liquid is more pleasant than cold liquid, but you should take it as fast as possible.
- Remove contact lenses if you are using it. You should try to push the lenses aside if you cannot remove them. Then rinse the eye.
- Preferably use a soft jet from the shower or faucet. You can take another fluid if you do not have a shower or faucet quickly available. Then you can, for example, use milk or any other drink, saline solution or contact lens fluid.
- Keep your head under the beam and point your eye upwards.
- Try to keep the eyelids apart. Then the rinsing becomes more effective.
- Rinse eye thoroughly and for at least fifteen minutes.
- Continue to rinse your eye on the way to an emergency room if you have the opportunity.
Read the table of contents
Many common chemicals that can be found in the home can cause eye burns. Some examples of this are machine dishwashing detergent, lime and caustic soda. You can read the table of contents if you are unsure about the content of a product. It says it contains corrosive substances.
Corrosive substances can be acidic or alkaline. Acidic substances can also be called acid.
Most importantly, rinse immediately and seek care
The most important thing is that you start flushing the eye immediately if you have a corrosive substance in the eye. Then you should call the Poison Information and quickly go to an emergency room. You can continue to rinse your eye on the way to the hospital, if possible.
There are many different corrosive substances. Some common corrosive acidic substances are
- hydrochloric acid
- sulfuric acid
- nitric acid.
Some common corrosive basic substances are
- sodium hydroxide
- potassium hydroxide.
You are usually allowed to sit down while the doctor examines your eye. Smaller children may need to lie down during the survey.
The doctor examines the eye and, if necessary, turns the lid on to see if you have any visible debris in the eye. The doctor turns the eyelid on with his fingers or with, for example, a cotton swab placed on the eyelid skin.
The doctor can also anesthetize the eye and color the surface of the eye with an eye drop. The anesthetic makes it easier for you to open the eyelids so the doctor can examine the eye. The dye makes it easier for the doctor to see the debris and damage to the eye.
The doctor usually examines the eye with some type of magnifying aid, such as an eye microscope. It does them to see if the rubbish is left and if you have any eye damage.
The treatment you receive depends on what is in the eye and where it is in the eye.
The rubbish is rinsed or removed
The eye may need to be rinsed by the doctor. Rubbish may need to be dried or removed with moistened cotton swab, tweezers or other instruments. You will receive a stunning drop if needed.
Sometimes the garbage has disappeared even before the doctor examines the eye. It may feel as if the garbage remains for some day if the garbage has left scrubs on the eye.
Rubbish cannot get behind the eye. If there is debris left on the eye, the doctor will be able to see it during the examination.
Glass wool and mineral wool can be partially rinsed away
Glass wool and mineral wool consist of thin, sharp fibers that easily stick to the mucous membrane. Loose fibers can be washed away. But the fibers in the mucous membrane are often too small to be removed with, for example, the fingers or with tweezers. It can scratch the eye for several days before the fibers come off on their own.
Metal debris can be sanded or scraped away
The health care center can choose to send you urgently to an eye clinic if the debris sits deep in the cornea or in front of the pupil. This could be, for example, if you have had rust, metal degrees or welding flaps in the eye.
The doctor then anesthetizes the eye with an eye drop. Then the scrap is scraped or sanded away. The treatment goes very quickly, it usually only takes a minute.
Corrosive substances are treated with rinsing
The eye should immediately be treated with rinsing if you have a corrosive substance in the eye. The eye is usually rinsed an extra time at the emergency room or other care facility with which you have sought emergency care.
Sometimes you can get medicines to take home
Sometimes antibiotics are needed afterwards. You can take the medicine at home. You can get it in the form of an eye ointment or eye drops.
You can also get a lubricating ointment or lubricating eye drops.
How can I prevent getting junk in the eye?
It is difficult to avoid garbage in your eyes altogether. But in certain activities and in certain professions it may be good to protect the eyes by wearing goggles.
Wear safety goggles
Use goggles when you do one of the following:
- You work with corrosive or otherwise dangerous chemicals.
- You work with for example saw, hammer, lathe or grind.
- You cut grass.
What happens in the eye?
Rubbish often causes eye irritation. Then the amount of tears increases. You also start blinking more. In this way, debris is often rinsed away by the eye’s own cleansing function.
Sometimes the debris causes a wound on the mucous membrane, which is the outermost layer of the eye. Such wounds usually heal within a few days.
Metal debris in the eye can create a chemical reaction. It can cause inflammation of the eye that hurts.
Complications and sequelae
It is rare but sometimes it can be an infection or a severe inflammation of the eye. Then you can get treatment with medicines by an ophthalmologist.
A scar can form in the cornea of the eye when the scrub wound or corrosion has healed. It is unusual, but it can mean that you get a visual impairment if the scar sits in front of the pupil on the cornea.