What should you do? If our eyes’ many effective defense mechanisms fail to prevent a foreign object from entering and this cannot be rinsed out with water, you will feel a foreign object in your eye.
The ocular mucus membrane, eyelashes, eyelids, and cranial bones above the eye are mechanisms evolved over millions of years which serve as an effective defense against foreign invaders into the eye.
Today, the most common foreign objects entering the eye include splinters of metal, glass, plastic, or organic materials. Foreign objects in the eye which cannot be rinsed out are generally viewed as moderate eye injuries and should be immediately examined and removed by an ophthalmologist. Typical symptoms include foreign object irritation, watering, pain, and potentially clear mucus and glare combined with reduced visual function.
The foreign body must be immediately located and removed by an ophthalmologist.
Modern medication ensures that this removal is painless, and in rarer cases foreign objects (generally made of metal) which have penetrated deep into the eye require surgical removal followed by further in-patient treatment. This is generally followed by subsequent treatment using anti-inflammatory and if necessary antibiotic eye drops, with postoperative treatment and its standard follow-up checks ranging from an ointment compression bandage to modern, paper-thin, plaster-like therapeutic lens dressings. As the cornea is part of our optical apparatus, scarring caused by injury poses an ever-present risk of loss of visual acuity. Foreign objects which have impacted centrally near the optical axis can cause visual discomfort of all kinds. Your ophthalmologist will generally be able to restrict or prevent a scar reaction of this kind using suitable medication.
In the rare cases where this is not successful, it can permanently impact upon vision, particularly at night.
To avoid worry, you should consult your ophthalmologist immediately, or even more importantly, always wear protective goggles when working in the garden or on repairs.