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Foreign Object in the Cornea

Your cornea is the clear layer on the front of your eyeball. It focuses light and helps protect your eye from dust and germs. A foreign object can get into the cornea itself. A trapped speck of dirt or grit is often a minor problem. But anything metal, or an object that goes through (pierces) your cornea, can cause severe damage.

Side view cross section of front of eye showing iris, pupil, and foreign object stuck in cornea.

When to go to the emergency room (ER)

The longer you wait, the greater the chance of injury or infection. Seek emergency medical help right away for any of the following:

  • An object in your eye that you can't flush out with water

  • Your eye remains very swollen or painful after an object has been removed

  • An object embedded in your eye. Cover both eyes with a sterile compress and call 911.

  • Your cornea (the front of your eye) is white or hazy

  • Blood in your eye

  • You are having trouble seeing

What to expect in the ER

  • A health care provider will ask about your injury and examine your eye.

  • Anesthetic eyedrops may be given to ease any mild pain.

  • A microscope with a bright light is used to help examine your eyeball. A special dye (fluorescein dye) may be placed on the cornea to help see the embedded object more clearly.

  • A loose foreign object may be removed.

  • Severe injuries are likely to be treated by an eye specialist (ophthalmologist).


Call your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms after going home:

  • Fever over 101°F (38.3°C)

  • Increased redness or eye pain

  • Drainage from your eye

  • Blurred or decreased vision


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