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Why Does It Feel like Something Is in My Eye?

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A young woman with dry eyes is feeling something in her eyes, she is touching her eyes with her both hands.

We’ve all been there, it feels like something is inside your eye irritating it. No matter how much you look in the mirror and ask everyone around you, there’s not even a stray eyelash to be found. If there’s nothing there, why does it feel like something is in your eye?

Your eyes are extremely sensitive, detecting even the smallest changes. Even if something small enters the eye, you can experience some discomfort until it is removed.

However, there are times when it may feel like something in your eye for a long time, even when there’s no evidence of something there.

If you can’t identify a specific cause, you should consult an eye specialist. As with most vision problems, the sooner you get your eyes checked professionally, the better. There are many reasons you may feel like something is in your eye, including dry eye, blepharitis, conjunctivitis, corneal abrasion, or a stye.

Dry Eye Disease

Dry eyes are a common issue. They happen when your tears don’t adequately moisten the surface of your eyes. When you blink, you leave a thin layer of tears on the surface of your eye, which helps to keep your eyes healthy and clear. However, this thin tear film may not always function properly, resulting in dry eyes.

Dry eye can cause you to feel as if something is in your eye, and it can cause excessive tearing followed by periods of dryness. Other signs and symptoms of dry eye may include:

  • Scratchiness
  • Discomfort
  • Eye redness
  • Burning or stinging

As you age, dry eyes become more common, and women are more likely to have dry eyes than men.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis can often cause a sensation that feels like something is in your eye. This is an eyelid issue where the lashes, skin, or glands become inflamed due to an infection or irritant.

Warm compresses or eyelid cleansers can help with blepharitis by keeping your eyelids clean and free from debris and irritants. Some symptoms associated with this condition include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Eyelid itchiness
  • Light sensitivity

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pink eye,” can be brought on by a virus, bacteria, or allergies. Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are easily transmitted from one person to the next, but allergic conjunctivitis isn’t contagious. Pink eye symptoms can include:

  • Feeling like something is in your eye
  • A gritty sensation in your eye
  • Red, burning, itchy, uncomfortable, or watery eyes
  • Puffy eyelids
  • Blurry or hazy vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Mucus, pus, or thick yellow discharge
A man with a stye is feeling something in his eye and went to see his doctor for an eye examination.

Corneal Abrasion

A corneal abrasion is a scratch or scrape on your cornea’s surface. Corneal abrasions can be caused by:

  • Fingernails
  • Makeup brushes
  • Rubbing your eyes
  • Having dry eyes

Minor corneal injuries may heal on their own in a few days, and a cold compress can help alleviate discomfort. More serious corneal cuts, on the other hand, necessitate medical attention because they could cause permanent vision damage.

Signs of a corneal abrasion include:

  • Feeling like something is stuck in your eye
  • Red, uncomfortable, watery eyes
  • Blurry or hazy vision
  • Light sensitivity

Stye

A hordeolum, also known as a stye, is an infection that causes a tender, red bump near the edge of the eyelid. It may happen at the base of an eyelash (called an external stye) or in one of the tiny oil glands in the eyelid (called an internal stye). Symptoms of a stye can include:

  • An uncomfortable red bump along the edge of the eyelid
  • Feeling like something is in your eye
  • Having a scratchy feeling in the eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Crustiness along the eyelid margin
  • Tearing in that eye

Something Is Actually in Your Eye

The most straightforward explanation for feeling like something is in your eye, is that there is in fact something in your eye! 

Foreign objects, such as dust or eyelashes, can easily enter your eye, and you can’t always see them underneath your eyelids.

If blinking doesn’t work, try rinsing your eye with clean cold water to see if the sensation goes away. Small foreign objects may also be removed using eye drops or artificial tears.

Feeling like Something Is in Your Eye?

Everyone has experienced the irritation of something in their eye at some point in their lives. This sensation tells you that something is not quite right with your eye.

If you’ve tried getting rid of the sensation at home with a warm compress or rinsing with water, and it hasn’t helped, it’s time to see an eye doctor. Based on your symptoms, your eye doctor can make a diagnosis of what the issue is and help you find relief from your symptoms.

Book an appointment with the team at San Clemente Optometry—they can help you find the source of your “feels like something in my eye” sensation. Then, we’ll help you on the path to relief.

Written by Dr. David Nota

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