A foreign body in the eye is a common reason for people to present to Emergency Departments. A foreign body is an object in your eye that shouldn’t be there, such as a wood chip, metal shaving, wool fibre, insect, chemical or piece of glass. Don’t try to remove it yourself. Agriculture, forestry and fishing was the second most commonly reported employment sector for injuries occurring while working for income between 2010-2015. Seek urgent medical attention. Symptoms include pain, burning, irritation, a scratchy feeling, blurred vision, loss of vision, sensitivity to bright lights and bleeding into the white of the eye.
Eye injuries can occur when flying particles lodge in your eye or chemicals splash. Some common examples include wood chips, metal filings, dust, insects, chemicals, sand, UV radiation and grain. This can occur while working in the workshop, (angle grinding, welding) and during field activities such as fencing, stock mustering or even playing sport! Eyes are also highly vascular and will absorb chemicals into the bloodstream more rapidly than when splashed on the skin.
DO NOT RUB YOUR EYE if you get something in it! This may scratch your eye or embed the object. Flush the eye with clean water under a tap or with a bottle for 15 minutes. If the particle does not rinse free after a few minutes, place a pad loosely over the eye and seek medical treatment. Self-removal is not recommended as it can result in further trauma by scratching or embedding the object further. It is important to seek assistance as permanent damage can occur.
Complications with eye injuries:
- Infection and scarring – if the foreign body is not removed from your eye, it may lead to infection and scarring.
- Corneal scratches or abrasions – a foreign body may scratch the cornea, which is the clear membrane on the front of the eye.
- Eye ulcer – sometimes a scratch on the cornea doesn’t heal and an eye (ulcer) may form in its place. This could affect your vision or lead to an abscess.
- Penetrating eye injury – sometimes a projectile object for example a piece of metal from angle grinding can pierce the eye and enter the eyeball, causing serious injury and even blindness.
- Wear Australian Standard approved safety glasses with UV protection when outdoors and maintain all eye safety equipment in a clean and dry manner
- Always use a recommended Australian Standard welder’s mask when welding
- Have an eye review with an optometrist every two years
Find out more about this topic on Better Health Channel
Eye injury – something in your eye
- If you get a something in your eye, don’t rub it as it may cause more damage.
- Flush your eye out with clean water or eyewash.
- If it doesn’t come out, cover the eye with a loose pad and get medical help
- Do NOT try to remove it yourself.
References used for this topic page
Better Health Channel
Eye safety at work
How to treat: minor farm issues
Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne
Clinical practice guidelines – acute eye injuries in children
Lunz, R., Brumby, S., Clifforth, S., & Yoshimitsu, Y. (2019). Minor farm injuries: How to treat [How to treat]. Australian Doctor, (September 2019), 15-22. Retrieved from https://www.ausdoc.com.au/how-treat/minor-farm-injuries
Research & reviews:
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Eye injuries in Australia 2010–11 to 2014–15
Bentham Open Access
Hospitalised eye injuries in New South Wales, Australia [PDF 76kb]
Safe Work Australia
Work related eye injuries in Australia [PDF]