What is Foreign Body Sensation?
Foreign body sensation is a feeling that something is in your eye. In some cases, there may actually be something in your eye. However, in other cases, the sensation is due to an eye condition.¹
Some people may complain that it feels like there is “sand in the eye” or mention a gritty feeling. Blinking or using artificial tears may help expel the foreign body if one exists. Oftentimes, the sensation results from damage to the cornea, conjunctiva or eyelids, and there is actually nothing in your eye.
Your eye doctor will be able to diagnose the cause and direct a treatment plan depending on the source.
- Foreign body sensation occurs due to a foreign object on the eye surface or an eye condition that creates a feeling that something is in your eye.
- Dry eye disease sufferers often experience foreign body sensation due to ocular surface damage from lack of tears or clogged eyelid glands.
- Your eye doctor will be able to diagnose the cause and direct a treatment plan depending on the source.
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Understanding Foreign Body Sensation
Foreign body sensation can cause you to feel as if there is something in your eye. You may also experience watery eyes, redness or discharge.²
Foreign body sensation may result from an eyelash, dirt or other debris on the cornea or conjunctiva (the membrane that covers the white part of the eye), or stuck under the eyelid.²
While your tears can naturally expel the object, sometimes a corneal abrasion (scratch) occurs. A scratch on the cornea further irritates the eye and can cause the feeling of something in your eye.
Dry Eye Disease and Foreign Body Sensation
People who have chronic dry eyes (dry eye disease or dry eye syndrome) often experience foreign body sensation.
Common causes of dry eye disease include meibomian gland dysfunction (dysfunction in the glands needed to maintain a healthy tear film) and decreased tear production. Dry eye disease can damage the ocular surface, which can cause the feeling that something’s in your eye, especially when the eyelid glides over the surface.³
Also, the lack of tears creates friction between the inner eyelid and the cornea, creating the sensation that there’s an object in your eye.
Treatment for foreign body sensation depends on the cause. When there is a foreign body, you can try artificial tear eye drops to flush it out.
If dry eyes are the cause, you may find relief with a warm compress, eyelid wipes and preservative-free artificial tears.
If you cannot locate a foreign object and the sensation persists, make an appointment to see an eye doctor. Your eye doctor will review your history and additional symptoms, as well as perform an eye exam to look for other eye conditions or abrasions to the cornea.²
If your eye doctor locates a corneal abrasion, they will prescribe antibiotic eye drops, which should provide relief in a few days.²