The eye will often clear itself of tiny objects, like eyelashes and sand, through blinking and tearing. Do not rub the eye. Wash your hands before examining it.
Examine the eye in a well-lighted area. To find the object, look up and down, then from side to side.
If you can't find the object, grasp the lower eyelid and gently pull down on it to look under the lower eyelid. To look under the upper lid, you can place a cotton-tipped swab on the outside of the upper lid and gently flip the lid over the cotton swab.
If the object is on an eyelid, try to gently flush it out with water. If that does not work, try touching a second cotton-tipped swab to the object to remove it.
If the object is on the eye, try gently rinsing the eye with water. It may help to use an eye dropper positioned above the outer corner of the eye. Do NOT touch the eye itself with the cotton swab.
A scratchy feeling or other minor discomfort may continue after removing eyelashes and other tiny objects. This will go away within a day or two. If you continue to have discomfort or blurred vision, get medical help.
Contact your health care provider and do NOT treat yourself if:
You have a lot eye pain or sensitivity to light
Your vision is decreased
You have red or painful eyes
You have flaking, discharge, or a lesion on your eye or eyelid
You have had trauma to your eye, or you have a bulging eye or a drooping eyelid
Your dry eyes do not get better with self-care measures within a few days
If you have been hammering, grinding, or have possibly come into contact with high-velocity metal fragments, do NOT attempt any removal. Go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
Knoop KJ, Dennis WR, Hedges JR. Ophthalmologic procedures. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 63.
Butler FK Jr. The eye in the wilderness. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 25.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.