One of the most painful eye conditions is getting a small piece of metal lodged in the front of the eye. This can occur from many different working tasks and will cause intense pain, redness, and other symptoms. Fortunately, the treatment for metal in the eye is a straightforward in office procedure.
How Does Metal Get in the Eye?
When working with metal, there are many small slivers or burrs which come off of the metal sheet.
If the metal is being grinded, sanded, or manipulated, the small pieces of metal can become airborne and end up coming in contact with the front of the eye.
There are countless jobs and tasks which create a risk for getting a piece of metal in the eye. From sharpening lawn mower blades at home to working in a manufacturing environment, the risk for a metallic foreign body in the eye is present.
A key measure of preventing any metal in the eye is wearing the appropriate safety glasses at all times.
Signs and Symptoms of Metal in the Eye
If a piece of metal is lodged in the cornea, there will usually be an immediate painful sensation and the eye may become red or bloodshot.
In the hours after the initial event, the eye will begin to water and swell around the eyelids while the pain will continue.
If the metal is stuck beneath the eyelid, the pain may be related to blinks, and it can feel as though every blink is causing more damage.
In an eye examination, the metal in the eye can be seen with a microscope and evaluated to determine the size and extent of the injury.
Treating Metal in the Eye
If there is anything suspected to be in the eyes, metal or otherwise, an eye examination by an eye doctor is needed.
At this exam, the doctor will assess the health of the eye and locate any and all foreign objects in the eye.
Also, the doctor will determine if the injury penetrated the eyeball and should be treated as an emergency.
Assuming the metal did not penetrate the globe but is stuck to the front of the eye, the doctor can remove the metal in the office.
The procedure for removing the metal includes numbing the eye with an eye drop, using a small needle, forceps, or probe to dislodge the metal from the eye, and then using a tool to clean the edges of the wound and remove any debris or rust.
Complications with Metal in the Eye
Typically, if the metal is removed from the eye promptly, there will be little to no lasting effects of the metal in the eye.
However, if the metal remains in the eye for a longer duration, there is an increased risk of infection and scarring.
In these cases, an antibiotic eye drop will be used to prevent infection and extra care will be taken to reduce the likelihood of scarring on the front of the eye.