Here’s a scenario you’ve probably experienced at least once in your life. You’re going about your business driving, doing yard work, or otherwise living your life. Suddenly, your eye feels as though it’s been jabbed. Your lid squeezes shut. Tears flow. You stumble around the room hunched over and disoriented, like a werewolf in mid-transformation. The privilege of sight, which you normally take for granted, is much missed.
Rather than make plans for a corneal transplant when a foreign object appears in your eye, there are some things you can do instead.
Speaking to Self writer Korin Miller, ophthalmologist Anupama Anchala suggests that the first thing to do is determine whether something is truly irritating the surface of your eye. Conditions like dry eye or eyelid inflammation (blepharitis) can mimic the sensation of a foreign object. Dry eye can cause the eye to—well, dry out, with the lack of moisture sometimes prompting a stuck-object feeling. The swelling of blepharitis can do the same.
In the absence of itchiness or discharge common to these eye conditions, and with ample evidence of some kind of foreign object in there, Anchala says that a lot of eye invaders can be flushed out naturally simply by blinking. Repeated blinking produces tears, which can push out whatever might be prompting the irritation. Fortunately, the eye does this involuntarily when the sensitive nerve fibers on the cornea are agitated, but you can help it along.
Resist the urge to rub your eye, since that can just cause whatever’s stuck to scrape across your cornea.
If marathon blinking doesn’t resolve the problem, the next step is irrigation. That just means flushing out the eye with saline solution or clean lukewarm water. To do this, you’ll want to wash your hands, remove your contact lenses, and then rest a drinking glass of water on the bone just under your eye, slowly tilting it upward so the water is (gently) flushed across the surface of the eye.
If that seems daunting or you keep involuntarily squeezing your eye shut, you can try jumping in the shower and letting water run down your forehead and into the affected eye.
If you think something is stuck under your upper eyelid, you can try to gently pull it forward and down over your lower lid, then roll your eye up. Something lodged in your lower lid can be moved with a clean cloth.
There is, of course, a difference between eye irritation and eye pain. If irritation persists after dislodging the object or you suspect something could actually be stuck in your eye, medical attention is required.
It also helps to take preventative measures if you know you might be in a position where things will be moving at high velocity toward your face. For weed trimming or construction work, it’s always a good idea to wear protective safety glasses. They may not look cool, but then again, neither is sitting in a doctor's office waiting to have something fished out of your eye.