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Why Does It Feel Like Something Is in My Eye?

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A man sitting at a desk with his laptop and holding his glasses in his left hand as he rubs his eyes.

There are several reasons why you may feel like something is in your eye, and it can be a very uncomfortable and frustrating experience. Some common causes it feels like something is in your eye can include:

Common Causes of Eye Irritation

Debris or Foreign Body Sensation

One of the most common causes of feeling like something is in your eye is debris or a foreign object getting into your eye. This can include dust, dirt, eyelashes, or even tiny bugs. These objects can cause irritation and discomfort, making you feel like something is constantly in your eye.

In most cases, blinking or flushing out your eye with water can help remove the debris or object and alleviate the discomfort.


Allergies can also cause the sensation of having something in your eye. When exposed to an allergen such as pollen, dust, or pet dander, your eyes may become itchy, red, and watery. This can lead to the feeling of having something in your eye, as well as other uncomfortable symptoms such as swelling and irritation.

Over-the-counter allergy medication or prescription eye drops can help alleviate these symptoms.

Eye Infections

In some cases, feeling like something is in your eye may be a sign of an eye infection. Common eye infections include conjunctivitis (pink eye), styes, and keratitis. These can cause redness, irritation, and discharge from the eye.

If you suspect an eye infection, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent further complications.

Contact Lens Irritation or Damage

If you wear contact lenses, there is a chance that they may cause the sensation of something being in your eye. This can be due to irritation from dryness, an ill-fitting lens, or damage to the lens itself.

Make sure to follow proper hygiene and care guidelines for your contact lenses, and if you experience persistent discomfort, consult with your optometrist.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome occurs when your eyes do not produce enough tears or the quality of your tears is poor, leading to dryness and irritation. This can also cause a feeling of having something in your eye as the lack of moisture can make it easier for debris to stick to the surface of your eye.

Artificial tear drops can help relieve symptoms, but if they persist, it is important to consult with an eye doctor.

Eye Strain or Fatigue

Spending prolonged periods looking at screens or focusing on one task can cause eye strain or fatigue. This can lead to a feeling of having something in your eye and other symptoms such as headaches, blurred vision, and dryness. Taking regular breaks, adjusting screen brightness and position, and practicing good eye hygiene (such as blinking regularly) can help prevent this issue. If symptoms persist, consult with your optometrist.

What to Do If You Feel Something in Your Eye

If you are experiencing the sensation of something being in your eye, here are some steps to follow:

  1. Wash your hands: Before attempting to touch or rub your eye, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water to avoid introducing any bacteria or irritants.
  2. Look for the object: Use a mirror to check for any visible debris or foreign objects in your eye. If you wear contact lenses, make sure they are not damaged or out of place.
  3. Flush: If the object is visible and small enough, you can try flushing it out with distilled water or saline solution.
  4. Blink and tear: Sometimes the natural reflex of blinking and producing tears can help dislodge or flush out an object in your eye. Blinking also spreads moisture across the surface of your eye, helping to relieve dryness.
  5. Use artificial tears: If the sensation persists, you can try using artificial tear drops to lubricate your eye and flush out any irritants.
  6. Seek medical attention: If the object is not visible or cannot be removed with the above methods, do not attempt to remove it yourself. Seek medical attention from your eye doctor or visit an emergency room.

It’s important to avoid rubbing or touching your eye excessively as this can cause further irritation and increase the risk of infection. Keep in mind that some objects may not be easily seen or felt, but can still cause discomfort and potential damage to your eye if left untreated. If symptoms persist or worsen, it is always best to consult with your optometrist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Close-up of a man undergoing a slit-lamp exam.

Treat Your Irritated Eyes at Heartland Eye Consultants

Having something stuck in your eye can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience. However, it is important to handle the situation carefully and seek professional help if necessary.

At Heartland Eye Consultants, we provide comprehensive eye care services to help maintain the health and clarity of your vision. Our experienced optometrists can assist with eye disease diagnosis and provide personalized treatment plans for optimal eye health. Get in touch with us today for any concerns or eye care needs.

Written by Dr. Holly Ternus

Dr. Holly Ternus is originally from Torrington, Wyoming, and graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in biological sciences. She graduated with Honors from The New England College of Optometry and completed internships with Honors at South Boston Community Health Center with an emphasis in glaucoma and narrow-angle glaucoma, Togus Veterans Affairs Medical Center with an emphasis in ocular disease, Lifetime Eyecare in Houston fitting specialty contact lenses, and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Dr. Ternus practiced with ophthalmology in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, specializing in ocular disease, dry eye disease, and emergency care. She then transitioned into primary care, fitting specialty contacts for keratoconus, post-RK, corneal ectasia, and irregular corneas.

Dr. Ternus is an active member of the Nebraska Optometric Association, American Optometry Association, and American Academy of Optometry. She received her fellowship with the American Academy of Optometry in 2018 and is a graduate of the Nebraska Optometric Association’s Leadership Institute. She also received her fellowship in the Scleral Lens Education Society and is the first in Nebraska to have completed this honor.

Outside of work, Dr. Ternus enjoys spending time with her husband and 2 children, snowboarding, skiing, water sports, watching Husker football, and everything that involves being outdoors.

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