Foreign body sensation

Overview  |  Symptoms  |  Causes  |  Diagnosis  |  Treatment

What is a foreign body sensation?

A foreign body sensation in the eye is the feeling that something is in your eye. It can be painful, irritating and cause watery eyes. It is typically caused by an eyelash, dirt, or other debris. However, often, there is nothing in the eye.


Depending on what is causing a foreign body sensation in your eye, you may experience:


Most causes of a foreign body sensation in the eye are harmless and don’t cause any issues. However, more severe cases will require medical attention to prevent vision loss.

Several eye conditions can cause a foreign sensation in the eye.

Chalazion (stye)

A chalazion or a stye is a lump that develops on the edge of your eyelashes. It is caused by a bacterial infection or clogged oil glands. This can cause the sensation that something is in the eye. This can cause additional symptoms, such as:

  • Swelling
  • Redness of the eyelid
  • Crustiness
  • Tearing

To read more about chalazion, check out our blog: Chalazion: All your questions answered!

Dry eyes

Dry eyes are a common condition that causes a foreign sensation in the eye. This is due to the tear glands not producing enough tears to lubricate the eye. This can cause additional symptoms such as:

  • Blurry vision
  • A gritty feeling in the eye
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • A burning or stinging sensation
  • Excess tearing

Learn more about the condition and its symptoms here.


Blepharitis is the inflammation of the eyelid or eyelash line. An infection or clogging of the eye’s lubricating oil glands causes this condition. Once the oil glands are clogged, bacteria will build up.

This can cause the eyelids to become red, crusty, and swollen, allowing debris to travel into the eyelashes or the eye.

Additional symptoms include:

  • Itching
  • Watery eye
  • Crusting on eyelid
  • Red, irritated eyes and eyelids
  • Burning and stinging sensation
  • A gritty feeling in the eye

Check out more about blepharitis here. Read our blog to learn more about how to treat blepharitis at home: How to cure blepharitis fast.

Pterygium & Pinguecula

A pterygium is a raised, triangular, or wedge-shaped tissue growth on the white of the eye (sclera). It is also known as Surfer’s eye.

Pinguecula is a raised, yellow growth on the eye’s conjunctiva (a thin layer of clear tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and the white of the eye)

These conditions are caused by dust, wind, and/or exposure to UV light.

Other symptoms include:

  • Swelling
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Burning and stinging sensation

Corneal injury

The cornea is a clear, protective covering both eyes. A corneal abrasion occurs when a scratch or scrape damages the cornea but does not penetrate the eye.

This can be caused by several factors, such as contact lens overwear, makeup or mascara brushes, or an accident involving scraping of the eye.

Some other common symptoms include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Red and painful eyes
  • Watery eyes

Corneal ulcer

A corneal ulcer is an open sore on the cornea caused by an eye infection. If you suspect you have an ulcer, it is important to see a specialist. This condition can cause blindness and permanent damage if not treated.

Additional symptoms include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Swelling
  • Red and painful eyes
  • Pus or discharge
  • White spot on the cornea


You can usually flush out the eye with water at home to help remove any small debris, such as eyelashes or makeup. However, if you are experiencing additional symptoms and/or home remedies are not working, we would advise you to speak to an ophthalmologist.

It is important to seek assistance for your symptoms. If a foreign object is in your eye, we will need to assess whether there is any potential damage to the cornea.

In your initial consultation, we will do a physical assessment of your eye. We will also conduct a complete eye exam and may run tests, including eye chart tests, eye pressure tests, and retinal assessments.

To learn more about what common eye tests are involved in a complete eye examination, check out our blog: ‘Common eye tests’


Treatment will depend on the cause of the issue. Our team here at Oculase will ensure that the right treatment plan is tailored to your diagnosis and needs.

Some initial treatments may include a warm compress with an eyebag. You may also be prescribed lubricating eye drops and/or antibiotic and/or steroid drops to treat any underlying condition that may be causing the foreign sensation.

Book an appointment

Feeling like there is something in your eye can be annoying and frustrating, especially if the sensation persists. We can help you treat you swiftly so you can get back on track and regain control over your eye health.

Book your appointment today to get the answers you need.

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0330 128 1616

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