What do I do if I get metal in my eye?

If you’ve sustained an eye injury, it is important not to panic but to try and see an eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) as soon as possible. If you feel that your eye injury is severe, please have someone drive you to the nearest emergency room. If you don’t feel that your injury is severe, please read on.

Most metal foreign body injuries occur accidently with metal fragments falling off an eyebrow or somehow getting around safety wear and landing gently on the surface of the eye. The metal or other foreign object can easily adhere to the wet surface of the eye and result in a scratchy, irritating sensation. As your eye is a moist environment, metal can start to rust and result in further irritation. Left untreated, metal foreign objects can eventually result in a large eye infection and may result in partial or permanent vision loss.

Most metal objects can be safely and quickly removed by your optometrist saving you a trip to the emergency room. Your optometrist will evaluate your eye by instilling numbing eye drops to ease any discomfort. Once located, the metal can often be easily removed with specialized magnetic instruments with little to no discomfort.

If the metal has been left in the eye to long, a small amount of rust may be left over after the removal. This rust can lead to similar eye problems and a continued foreign body like sensation in the eye. Your optometrist will quickly remove this rust with an Algerbrush, a fast moving instrument that gently polishes the surface of the eye.

Your eye doctor will provide you with a prescription for topical antibiotic eye drops or ointments along with lubricating eye drops, which must be used for a few days.

Please Note: Alberta Health Care now covers the cost of emergency eye care visits to your optometrist office – there is no charge to you as a patient. If you should ever experience a serious eye injury after normal eye-bar clinic hours, please proceed to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, where there is an on-call ophthalmology resident on site.