Everyone gets something in their eye at some point. Often it’s just dust or an eyelash, but sometimes it's a sign of something more serious, such as an eye injury which requires further care. Other times, specific eye conditions can make it feel as if there's something in your eye, even when there isn't.

What do I do if there’s something in my eye?

Most of the time your eyes will deal with small objects by themselves: they should come out naturally with the help of your tears and eyelids. However, if you're struggling to remove the object, you should try to follow this advice:

  • Don’t rub the affected eye – no matter how itchy it feels
  • Blink to stimulate tears or use an eye wash
  • If the foreign body isn’t washed away by your tears or by bathing your eye, seek medical attention, especially if the object can't be seen.
  • Try to keep the affected eye shut until you can be seen.

The NHS has some helpfuladvice on eye injuries and when to seek emergency help if you’re ever concerned.

Why does it feel like there's something in my eye — even where there isn't?

There are several eye conditions that can make it feel like you have something in your eye, even if there’s not. Most of the time they are not serious, but might need investigating. As with all eye conditions, you should contact your optician, GP or NHS 111 immediately for appropriate advice if you experience: eye pain, light sensitivity, disturbed vision, or intense eye redness.

What eye conditions cause a gritty feeling in the eyes?

Below we’ll take a look at some of the more common eye conditions that can make you feel like there is something in your eye even when there isn’t — a lot of these start with a sandy or gritty feeling in the eye.

Scratched eye (Corneal abrasion)

A ‘corneal abrasion’ is one of the most common eye injuries, and refers to a scratch or scrape to the cornea (the front, clear layer of the eye). Even if you can’t see anything in your eye, that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been damaged by a foreign object that’s since come out.

Dry eye syndrome

Dry eye syndrome can occur when your eyes stop making tears as they usually would. Tears are an important part of your eye health: they help to keep your eyes lubricated, protect against infections, and clear away debris from the surface of your eyes.

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is a common condition that affects one or both eyes and causes inflammation of the thin layer of tissue (the conjunctiva) that covers most of the front of the eye and inner surfaces of the eyelids.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis can develop at any age but is more common in people over 40. It’s not serious, although it can lead to further problems if left untreated.

Corneal ulcers

A corneal ulcer is a painful sore that develops on the outer surface of your eye. Common causes of corneal ulcers include: bacterial infections, viral infections, eye injuries or small scratches on the eye. They can be more common in contact lens wearers so proper care of your lenses is essential.

Pinguecula

A pinguecula is a white or yellow bump on the white of the eye which is usually found close to the edge of the cornea. It grows on the clear layer which covers the white part of your eye called the conjunctiva.

Pterygium

A pterygium is a non-cancerous growth that develops on the clear layer which covers the white part of your eye called the conjunctiva. They tend to develop with age and occur more frequently in those who spend most of their time outdoors.

How can eye tests help to detect eye conditions early?

If it feels like there is something in your eye, and it doesn't correct itself naturally, it's worth seeing your GP or local optometrist to have your symptoms checked-out. All of our optometrists are fully trained to detect eye conditions that could cause discomfort — the sooner they can identify any problems with your eyes, the sooner any underlying conditions can be managed.

During the appointment, your optometrist will perform a variety of tests to look closely at the health of your eye, as well as assess any impact to your vision. For example, theslit lamp is a powerful microscope that lets them examine the surface of the eye for any damage, scratches or abrasions.

Worried about your eyes?

Specsavers stores provide a range of eyecare services to help maintain the health of your eyes. In some areas of the country, this may be provided free of charge on behalf of the NHS. Where NHS services are not available, there is a private service. Rather than booking an appointment online, contact your local store for more information and to arrange an eye health clinic appointment.