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CORNEAL FOREIGN BODY
 

What is a corneal foreign body?

The cornea is the front surface of your eye. It is a clear, dome shaped structure that sits in front of the colored part of your eye (the iris). The main function of the Cornea is to focus light onto the back surface of the eye (the retina). The cornea is very soft and flexible and therefore small objects that strike the eye, even with a small amount of force, can easily become embedded in the cornea.  Anything from a small piece of metal from grinding to a speck of dust in the wind can become embedded into the cornea.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms may not be immediate, but typically range from a mild irritation to extreme pain and may be associated with redness and watery eyes.  An individual who has a corneal foreign body can typically identify where they were and what they were doing when it began.

What risks are associated with a corneal foreign body?

Corneal foreign bodies cause an abrasion (a scratch) to the area of the cornea where the foreign body is embedded.  Many foreign bodies do not go any deeper than the surface layer of the cornea (the epithelium) and once the foreign body is removed the abrasion will usually heal within a day or two. Larger foreign bodies, or foreign bodies that strike the eye with considerable force can penetrate into the middle layer of the cornea (the stroma).  These corneal abrasions take longer to heal and have the potential to scar.  Scars in the center of the cornea (within the line of sight) can result in reduced vision, or even blindness in extreme cases.

Should I wait to see if it will work itself out?

Corneal foreign bodies that have been in the eye for several days tend to be much more difficult to treat. The eye becomes very irritated and the cornea tends to become cloudy as inflammation sets in, which can cause blurred vision.  Metallic foreign bodies begin to rust if they stay embedded in the cornea for more than a day. This rust seeps into the surrounding tissue and causes more inflammation as well as a "rust ring".  Rust rings are difficult to remove because they tend to be very firmly embedded into the corneal tissue and because corneal tissue will often try to grow over the rust ring.

What should I expect?

The doctor will remove as much of the foreign body as possible at the initial visit.  If the doctor is unable to remove all of the foreign body, you will be scheduled for a follow up visit (usually within 2 days).  The cornea will typically try to push foreign material to the surface, so whatever could not be removed at the initial visit can often be removed at the follow up visit.  Severe corneal abrasions may be bandaged with a contact lens to increase comfort.

Will I be prescribed medications?

Typically an antibiotic drop will be prescribed to prevent or treat infection.  It is important that you use this drop as prescribed.

In addition we recommend that you use a thick artificial tear drop like Refresh Liquigel as often as possible during the healing process.  Artificial tears will help to keep the cornea rinsed, clean, and help to protect and coat the abrasion as it heals.  Artificial tears are also very effective at reducing pain.

Should you have significant pain, oral pain medication may be prescribed.

What precautions should I take?

The best thing that you can do to help speed up your recovery is to go home and relax in a darkened room.  Sleeping is helpful, but you can watch TV as this does not generally irritate the eye.  Try to avoid computer use, reading, bright lights, and working in dirty environments.  If you were given a bandage lens it is very important that you return for a follow up visit to have the bandage lens removed and not remove it yourself.  If you experience severe pain, increased redness, increased discharge from the eye, increased cloudy or blurred vision, or any other unusual symptoms please contact our office immediately.

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