a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA)
Week: 496.5 Guest: Sheri Rowen, M.D., F.A.C.S. Topic: Foreign Objects in the Eye Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham
NEMA: This is a discussion with ophthalmologist Dr. Sheri Rowen from the Katzen Eye Group in Baltimore, Maryland about what to do and what not to do when you get a foreign object in your eye.
NEMA: Dr. Rowen, how often do you find yourself treating patients who have come in to you with foreign bodies lodged in their eyes?
ROWEN: Foreign bodies lodged in their eyes we see many of them a week. It happens when people are working under their car, mowing their lawn, working in any metal grinding facility, driving in a car, walking on a street. Something can blow in the eye at any time and if it happens to stick onto the cornea, it's impossible for someone to get off by themselves. If anyone usually gets something on their cornea, it hurts immediately. The cornea probably has the most concentrated amount of nerve fibers in the body and it detects pain and any intruder instantly so anytime anything gets on that cornea, you know it. It is really really painful and you do want to get those foreign bodies out quickly.
NEMA: What is the most dangerous and potentially damaging aspect of particles in the eye? Is it that it eventually leads to infection or is it the actual physical scratching it can do to the lens?
ROWEN: If a particle is just imbedded on the outer layer of the cornea, it just can eventually start slowly melting the area down but it's not an acute danger. The danger is when you have high impact, high velocity particles that can go into the eye and actually enter the eye and perforate it and that's when you really are in danger.
NEMA: Talk a little bit about the self cleaning ability of the human eye.
ROWEN: If you have particles that enter the eye like eyelashes or even a bug that flies in your eye or something else, you have tear film that continually washes away these particles and helps things move into the corner of the eye. You have a tear film and you have a blink response and the blink response actually is a muscle contraction and helps push things into the corner of the eye the inside corner of the eye towards the nose so anything that's not stuck to the actual eye itself can be moved into that area. If it gets stuck, then it has to be manually removed by an eyecare professional.
NEMA: What is the worst thing I can do if something flies into my eye?
ROWEN: It's probably good not to rub it. What you want to do is try to localize where it is. Maybe try to look in the mirror. If you can feel it in the corner, wash your hands and then try to go after it locally but a generalized rubbing if you have something in the eye is just going to cause more scratching if that little foreign body is free in there floating around.
NEMA: Do you completely disapprove of the idea of the average person trying to get something nasty out of their eye? Is it likely to be more risky than it's worth?
ROWEN: If they can see what it is then it's not risky. Let me explain something in terms of getting it out of the eye. The white part of the eye which is covered with a fine layer of blood vessels is not terribly sensitive to touch so if you see something on the white part of your eye or inside the eyelid you can pretty much go after it either with a clean finger or a q tip very gently but if you see it on the cornea which is the layer that covers the color part of the eye, the brown, the green, the blue part, then you cannot go after it yourself.