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A sensation that something is in your eye can be irritating, but why does it occur? You may experience an uncomfortable sensation, like a scratch. It may feel like something is stuck in your eye, but everytime you look in the mirror, there’s nothing there!

This sensation can be frustrating, but it is also common. The feeling of something in your eye is often caused by dry eye or a foreign body.

Let’s look at how you can distinguish the causes and what you can do to find relief. 

Is It a Foreign Body?

A foreign body occurs when an object gets lodged in your eye, such as dust or a tiny eyelash. 

When this happens, your eyes will try to flush out the object with tears, which can lead to watering and redness. It can also cause a feeling of irritation, like something is scratching the surface of your eye. 

If you suspect something is in your eye, flush the object using artificial tears or saline solution. If you can’t remove it or the sensation persists, seek medical attention from your eye doctor.

Is It Dry Eye?

Dry eye occurs when your eyes don’t produce enough tears to keep the eye’s surface lubricated or if the tears evaporate too quickly. 

A healthy tear film has water, oil, and mucin for lubricating, nourishing, preventing evaporation, and helping tears stick to the eye’s surface. An imbalanced tear film can cause dry eyes. 

Various factors, such as age, hormonal changes, certain medications, health conditions, meibomian gland dysfunction, and environmental factors like dry air or wind, can affect the tear film. When your eyes are dry, you may feel the following symptoms:

  • Scratchiness or grittiness
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Redness
  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity
A woman holding a small bottle of eye drops in her right hand and putting them on her right eye.

Treatment for Dry Eye

If you suspect you have dry eye, there are several things you can do to relieve the symptoms. A complete dry eye assessment can help your eye doctor create a personalized treatment plan. This can include:

You can also reduce your exposure to environmental factors that can worsen dry eye with lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Using a humidifier
  • Wearing wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun 
  • Avoiding wind, smoke, air conditioning, or other irritants
  • Reducing screen time by taking breaks to rest your eyes
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids

Other Causes of Foreign Body Sensation

In addition to a foreign body and dry eye, there are other less common causes of the feeling that something is in your eye. These can include:

  • Corneal abrasion: This is a scratch on the cornea (clear outer part of your eye). It’s caused by a foreign particle under the eyelid, poking the eye, or vigorously rubbing the eyes that can feel like something in your eye. 
  • Infection: Blepharitis is the eyelid inflammation caused by blocked oil glands. 
  • Chalazia or stye: Tiny, painless lump that develops on your eyelid.
  • Conjunctivitis: Pink eye is the inflammation of the conjunctive (tissue that lines the inner surface of your eyelid and covers the white part of your eye). 
  • Corneal ulcer: Open sore on the cornea caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection.
  • Pterygium: This is a harmless growth of the conjunctiva over the cornea. It may have links to exposure to sunlight, dust, and wind. 

Find a Dry Eye Doctor to Help Alleviate the Scratchy Feeling!

The feeling that something is in your eye can be uncomfortable. The most common causes of this sensation are obstruction and dry eye, but there can be other causes. 

The eyes are an essential part of overall health. Finding relief for your symptoms is not a one-size-fits-all approach. To find the root cause of your symptoms and get the proper treatment for your needs, find a MyDryEye near you that can recommend a tailored dry eye plan. 

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June 17, 2023

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