The eyes are composed of very delicate structures that lack reliable protection, apart from the eyelids, against external physical force. This puts the eyes at risk for injuries that are not only painful but may also lead to other complications, including blindness.
A foreign body is any object that gets into the eye. It could be a small chip of wood, a speck of
dust, shattered pieces of glass, insect, or an insect. Foreign bodies that get into the eye can be found on its surface or under the eyelids.
Important Disclaimer: This post on providing first aid for eye injuries is for learning purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage eye injuries as well as other head and neck injuries enrol in workplace approved first aid and CPR classes here.
Recognizing foreign body
Since the eyes are comprised of many sensitive nerve cells, an individual can easily detect the presence of a foreign body, no matter how small it is. Some indications of an embedded foreign body include:
- Coarse feeling in the eye
- Watery and red eye
- Sensitivity to bright lights
- Sharp pain, with irritation and burning sensation in the eye
- Blurred vision or loss of sight in the affected eye
- Uncomfortable feeling when blinking
- Bleeding in the sclera (white portion of the eye)
Although most injuries to the eyes are minor and heal easily after treatment, severe injuries can lead to complications that include infection and scarring, ulceration, corneal abrasions or scratches, and penetrating wound. These complications require medical treatment or surgery to prevent possible blindness.
Providing first aid for minor eye injuries
The eyes are equipped with a natural reflex that effectively clears foreign bodies. When a foreign body gets lodged in the eyes, lacrimal glands produce fluids to flush it out (tears). However, if the eyes are not able to naturally remove foreign body, you can flush the eyes using copious amount of clean water. Have the victim look down while flushing the material to facilitate flow of water. The affected side should be lower to ensure the irritant or foreign object does not get flushed into the unaffected eye.
If the eyes have been splashed with a chemical, flush the eyes continuously using cool running water while waiting for emergency services. Usually, workplaces where eye injuries are very likely have eye baths where you can cleanse your eyes. It is also recommended that you know the first aid response for different chemicals in the workplace.
If an embedded foreign object cannot be removed or gets stuck in your eyes, do not attempt to remove it from your own eye. Keep the affected eye close and cover it with a clean piece of cloth. It is best to wait for professional medical help or visit the emergency department.
If the eye injury involves penetrating wound or an object has become impaled or imbedded, perform the following procedures:
- Call 911 or local emergency service.
- Assist the person in a position of comfort, usually lying down.
- Instruct the victim to close and cover the unaffected eye.
- Apply a dressing over the affected eye. If there are any protrusions, secure it in place by bandaging a clean paper cup around the eye.
- Provide reassurance while waiting for rescue services.
- Monitor for possible signs and symptoms of shock.
Remember: DO NOT REMOVE AN EMBEDDED FOREIGN BODY.