Oww, my eye!
July 15, 2010 10:30 PM   Subscribe

It feels like there's something in my eye, which is making blinking that eye painful. It's 1 am here. What do I do?

Since about 11:30pm tonight, I've felt like there's something in my right eye. I've looked thoroughly and there doesn't seem to be anything there; my eye is just red from rubbing it. I've tried flushing my eye but can't stand it for very long. Visine isn't doing anything either. Blinking hurts; closing my eyes to try to go to sleep hurts. Do I just give up and try to sleep on it? Go to emerg? (My optometrist is in another city, 2 hours away; I don't have an optometrist in the city I'm currently in.) Am I just overreacting?

Other info: I wear contacts but they're out for the night. I had no problems with them today; my eye started hurting after I took the contacts out. It's possible that I may have scratched my eye when I was taking them out (my nails were long).
posted by pised to Health & Fitness (21 answers total)
Pink eye? Sty? Either way, warm washcloth tonight and maybe a walk-in clinic or GP tomorrow? Good luck! Good night!
posted by peagood at 10:40 PM on July 15, 2010

I've usually found that blinking a lot, and harder than usual, will get things out that are stuck in there.

If the hurting was right after you took the contacts out then I'll bet you did scratch.

Another possibility is an infection. I had one not too long ago and I started feeling it when I took some contacts out.

Definitely go see the doctor tomorrow if it hasn't stopped. Ditto if you think it could be an infection. The stuff they give you is a lot better than the over the counter stuff since it works faster. Baby shampoo might not hurt either. I just had an issue with putting shampoo on my eye because, well, it's shampoo and my eye and every other time that's happened it hurt like Hell.

If you think it's bad enough the emergency room couldn't hurt. If there's someone around you might want them to look at it before you go anywhere since they wouldn't be trying to see if your eye is messed up with a potentially messed up eye.
posted by theichibun at 10:42 PM on July 15, 2010

Take some aspirin or Tylenol. Get a clean wet washcloth (I prefer cool water) and put it on you closed eye. I've been know to run water over my eye, but I am not sure it is a good idea.
posted by fifilaru at 10:44 PM on July 15, 2010

I think the antibiotic eyedrops an ER would give you (if you do have a scratch) have something in them to help dull the pain. So if you really can't stand it, that may be your best solution. Complications are rare but sometimes eyeball scratches--corneal abrasions--do get infected, so you might want to see a doctor tomorrow no matter what.
posted by sallybrown at 10:49 PM on July 15, 2010

You probably scratched your eye (it's happened to me). The pain should go away as you put in your contacts in the morning, since they'll protect the wound from irritation. It's happened to me before - if it's a corneal scratch, it probably hurts a lot, and it hurts only when you blink and when your eye is closed.

You can go to an optometrist or ophthalmologist (I did), but there's pretty much nothing they can (or will) do for the pain. They can prescribe antibiotic eyedrops, but you shouldn't use them unless there is evidence of an infection (unlikely).

It heals pretty quickly, within two-three days. If it doesn't hurt while you're wearing contacts, and if your optometrist has okayed spending the occasional night without taking your contacts out, you can do so if you can't sleep with the pain.

IANAD, just quoting mine.
posted by halogen at 10:52 PM on July 15, 2010

Please try to see an optometrist tomorrow - when I had symptoms like yours, it turned out to be a corneal infiltrate.

The pain came on fairly suddenly, and it was quite uncomfortable for a while there.
posted by HopperFan at 10:56 PM on July 15, 2010

I always try pulling my eyelid down over my lower eyelashes, sometimes that can clear off any junk stuck on the eyelid.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 11:04 PM on July 15, 2010

In my experience, any foreign object in my eye has worked its own way out within an hour with nothing more than lots of blinking and some discomfort. I've had similar pain before from a scratched cornea - caused by a contact lens when I removed it.

Advice given to me by my Optician was to use over the counter anaesthetic eye drops and to avoid wearing contacts for at least a week. This worked for me.

Be careful putting contacts in to 'protect' the eye. Whilst I'm no expert, I would suggest getting your eye checked out before next wearing contacts, just in case you make it worse.
posted by Simon_ at 12:30 AM on July 16, 2010

From your question (IANAD) you scratched your cornea with your nails. I've done this more than once. Having no insurance, I limit trips to the optometrist to about once per decade. Go to sleep, and there's a 90% chance that it will feel mostly OK in the morning. At which point, DO NOT put your contacts back in! Wear glasses for a day and let it heal. It will be fine. If it still feels as bad as it does now in 24 hours, then, yes, doctor time. But I bet it won't.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 12:36 AM on July 16, 2010

This happened to me. It got so bad that my eye swelled up and I looked like a Victor Hugo monster. It was unbelievably painful and I couldn't sleep.

I'm probably late to the party, but I went to A&E because I was convinced I'd scratched my cornea. It turned out to be an infection caused by my all-day, all-night contact lenses - I was given antibiotic eyedrops (and a lecture) and told not to wear my lenses for at least two weeks.

If it hadn't been so painful I would just have gone to in-patients in the morning; if you haven't been yet, I recommend you at least go and see someone who is an eye specialist. My optician would have been useless, I feel, and I'm glad I went to A&E.

FYI, the anaesthetic eyedrops they had to put in (to get me to open my eye for long enough for them to examine it) were literally heaven. Mercifully, they didn't wear off for another half an hour and they let me get at least a tiny little bit of sleep.
posted by citands at 1:15 AM on July 16, 2010

From the sounds of it, you may well have scratched your cornea. I've done it before and it feels much as you've described.

Simon_: Be careful putting contacts in to 'protect' the eye. Whilst I'm no expert, I would suggest getting your eye checked out before next wearing contacts, just in case you make it worse.

I was going to say this too. When I scratched my cornea, I still regularly wore contacts, and my eye doctor told me to switch to glasses for about ten days, I believe, to give it time to heal.

So--until you know what's going on, I'd recommend you not wear your contacts and get yourself to an eye doctor as soon as possible. It's your eyes, so you don't want to take chances.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:00 AM on July 16, 2010

on a practical note: fill a clean wash basin with water, immerse you head and blink the eye or move your head gently from left to right. This will do the rinse without the rub.
posted by Eltulipan at 2:27 AM on July 16, 2010

When this happened to me, I found that I needed prior authorization to see my eye doctor from my primary care physician. They handled it with some phone calls in their office to get approval for "object in eye", but it would have been better if I'd gone to the PCP first.
posted by SandiBeech at 4:30 AM on July 16, 2010

Not long ago I suffered a corneal scratch. Due to the way the cornea is structured, it takes a long time to heal and re-injury is common during that time. I learned that firsthand and woke up in pain several times during the nights after the initial scratch (from a fingernail, rubbing my eye during my sleep). Google recurrent corneal abrasions if you want to learn more about that.

What's important in my case is that I waited too long to visit the ophthalmologist; I tried to tough it out and the eye became infected. The infection was fairly bad and has caused some scarring over the pupil, which in turn affects my vision. I'm finished with antibiotics and the infection is cleared up. I'm on a regimen of steroid eye drops to help prevent the scarring from turning more opaque as it heals, but it's looking like I'm going to be stuck, at a minimum, with permanently blurred vision in my left eye. I haven't had the final follow-up with the doc, but previous discussions are making me think I'd need a corneal transplant if I ever want this fixed.

None of this need necessarily apply to you, but I shared that happy little story so that you'll know that if it continues to appear irritated or if the pain recurs at any point, going to the doctor sooner rather than later could be very important.
posted by empyrean at 6:35 AM on July 16, 2010

I came in here to say what empyrean said. I had this same thing happen around 1985. I ended up with a hole in my cornea. The doctor wanted to check me into the hospital (but finally didn't, because I had lots of family members tending to me, including an RN) and to this day, I have scar tissue on a segment of my left cornea. I haven't been able to see completely clearly out of that eye since. Also, it cost me about $3000 out of pocket, and that was in 1985. So if you start experiencing anything beyond mild pain, get to a doctor immediately. This is nothing to screw around with.

And empyrean, what I was told (although it was years and years ago) was that I could have the scar tissue removed, but that since it only affected a tiny little piece of my vision, it probably wasn't worth the risk. But no one ever mentioned corneal transplant - just some sort of removal process.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:46 AM on July 16, 2010

I have recurrent corneal erosion. This means that periodically I wake up in excruciating pain, with my eyelid and eye having stuck together and pulled out a bit of eyeball. (Yay!) An opthamologist examined my eye and diagnosed the problem; he recommended that I use lubricating drops in perpetuity. The only recurrences since then have been when I ran out of eye drops.

The brand I use is Systane.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:48 AM on July 16, 2010

ER; better still, and ophthalmologist (not optometrist, not optician).

I had a painful eye situation and the ER doctor thought it was a scratched cornea, but when the pain didn't go away and any light became terribly painful, I finally drove myself to the ophthalmologist with one hand covering my terribly sore eye and one on the wheel. It was iritis. Please, let a physician make the diagnosis.
posted by apartment dweller at 7:01 AM on July 16, 2010

Response by poster: Whatever was in my eye last night got out about 10 minutes after I posted this question! My eye still hurt, though, but I could close my eyes and go to sleep. I've just woken up and my eye is still red and teary, so I think I'm going to go to the doctor today and see what's up. I'm a bit wary of putting in contacts before I know what it is, so it's glasses for today. I'll report back after I see the doc.
posted by pised at 7:53 AM on July 16, 2010

Glad you're going to a doc, but I thought I'd point out this thread for your edification anyway.

My husband's eye was periodically getting irritated. He'd thought he had something in it, or that it had gotten scratched. Nope. He'd been in the process of developing an eye ulcer. Fun stuff.
posted by moira at 11:33 AM on July 16, 2010

Response by poster: Went to the doc at campus health, and with his rather primitive eye equipment, he couldn't see anything wrong with my eye. He seemed to suspect a scratch, which tends to heal quickly on the eye (within 24 hours, he said). Anyway, he gave me some drops and about half an hour after the first drop, my eye felt worlds better. No contacts allowed for the next five days while I'm using the drops, though. He said if it gets worse to go to the hospital and get a...slit test, I think? (it sounds horrible, but apparently it's just looking at the eye under a more advanced microscope). I'm hoping the drops will do the trick, though. Thanks to everyone for your help and terrifying stories! I'm glad it seems to have turned out to be the least scary possibility.
posted by pised at 12:16 PM on July 16, 2010

Good luck with this. The last time something like that happened to me (acute pain in the eye - as if something is burning) was when I had worn the contact lens a little too long + worked all day on the computer.

I asked the Dr during my last eye checkup and he thought it was possibly due to me wearing the lens was too long and not blinking enough - thus dry eyes. He said if I do something similar, before taking off the lenses, put a couple of drops of the lens cleaning solution (Renu) in both eyes, keep the eyes closed and just rotate the eyes around so that the solution spreads everywhere. Keep eyes closed for a few minutes and then remove the lenses.

Reason was the since lenses rest on a layer of tears above the eye, if you don't blink long enough, you end up drying up the layer of tears and your lens sticks to the eye. Due to this you get a burning sensation post taking off the lens as the lens rubs against the eye when you take it off.
Now, whenever I feel my eyes are a bit dry at the end of the day, I put a drop or two of the lens solution.
posted by bbyboi at 4:09 AM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

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