Everyone gets something in their eye at some point. Often it’s just dust or an eyelash, but sometimes it's a sign of something more serious, such as an eye injury which requires further care. Other times, specific eye conditions can make it feel as if there's something in your eye, even when there isn't.
What do I do if there’s something in my eye?
Most of the time your eyes will deal with small objects by themselves: they should come out naturally with the help of your tears and eyelids. However, if you're struggling to remove the object, you should try to follow this advice:
- Don’t rub the affected eye – no matter how itchy it feels
- Blink to stimulate tears or use an eye wash
- If the foreign body isn’t washed away by your tears or by bathing your eye, seek immediate medical attention, especially if the object can't be seen
- Try to keep the affected eye shut until you can be seen
- If you work in an environment with dangerous materials such as construction, it’s vital that the appropriate safety eyewear is worn to prevent damage caused by a foreign object entering the eye
The NHS has some helpful advice on eye injuries and when to seek emergency help if you’re ever concerned.
Why does it feel like there's something in my eye — even where there isn't?
There are several eye conditions that can make it feel like you have something in your eye, even if there’s not. Most of the time they are not serious, but might need investigating. As with all eye conditions, you should contact your optician or GP immediately for appropriate advice if you experience: eye pain, light sensitivity, disturbed vision, or intense eye redness.
A corneal ulcer is a painful sore that develops on the outer surface of your eye. Common causes of corneal ulcers include: bacterial infections, viral infections, eye injuries or small scratches on the eye. They can be more common in contact lens wearers so proper care of your lenses is essential.
Aside from feeling like there is something in your eye you might experience the following:
- Grey or white spot on the cornea (the clear front layer of the eye)
- Eye inflammation or redness
- Eye pain or discomfort
- Watery or sticky discharge
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
You may experience symptoms more like an eye infection before you notice the eye ulcer.
A pinguecula is a white or yellow bump on the white of the eye which is usually found close to the edge of the cornea. It grows on the clear layer which covers the white part of your eye called the conjunctiva.
Most people with a pinguecula won’t experience any symptoms, but it is possible for the bump that a pinguecula creates on the eye’s surface to interfere with how the tear film is spread across the eye, which can lead to dry eyes and a gritty feeling. Other symptoms of pinguecula include red eyes and eye irritation.
Pingueculae develop as a normal part of the ageing process and most people by the age of 70 are likely to have one. The main cause of a pinguecula is long-term exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Other causes can include chronic irritation from wind or dust, and sometimes contact lens wear may be a contributing factor to the condition.
A pterygium is a non-cancerous growth that develops on the clear layer which covers the white part of your eye called the conjunctiva. They tend to develop with age and occur more frequently in those who spend most of their time outdoors.
Occurring in one or both eyes, most pterygia start in the corner of the eye by your nose. At first, you might not notice any symptoms, but as the pterygium gets larger, you may notice that your eye looks red and feels itchy or like there’s something in it. You may also notice a pink-coloured growth on your eye.
If a pterygium gets bigger and crosses over the cornea (the clear covering over your eye) it can warp the shape of the cornea, leading to an astigmatism. You may begin to experience blurry vision as a result, and in some cases, the pterygium may progress over the cornea and obscure your vision. However, this type of progression is quite rare.
How can eye tests help to detect eye conditions early?
If it feels like there is something in your eye, and it doesn't correct itself naturally, it's worth seeing your GP or local optometrist to have your symptoms checked-out. All of our optometrists are fully trained to detect eye conditions that could cause discomfort — the sooner they can identify any problems with your eyes, the sooner any underlying conditions can be managed.
During the appointment, your optometrist will perform a variety of tests to look closely at the health of your eye, as well as assess any impact to your vision. For example, theslit lamp is a powerful microscope that lets them examine the surface of the eye for any damage, scratches or abrasions.
Worried about your eyes?
Specsavers stores provide a range of eyecare services to help maintain the health of your eyes. Rather than booking an appointment online, contact your local store for more information and to arrange an eye health clinic appointment.
If you're worried about your eyes, call your store today to book an urgent eye health check. If your eye condition is accompanied by pain, vomiting/nausea, numbness or generally not feeling right - seek emergency care.