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Foreign body sensation in the eye – a typical symptom of dry eyes

Sometimes your eye is itchy or feels scratchy – you have the sensation that a foreign body, such as a grain of sand, is in your eye. This can be very annoying, especially if it does not get better after a short while. In such a case, you should first of all ascertain if you really do have something in your eye. Eye lashes, other foreign bodies or even small insects can sometimes get into the eye and remain stuck to the tear film. These should then be removed carefully from the eye with a handkerchief or a clean finger. To do so, gently raise the lower eyelid and wipe the foreign body from the surface of the eye towards the nose.

Dry eyes lead to the sensation that you have sand in your eyes
Dry eyes lead to the sensation that you have sand in your eyes

Incrustations on the eye, especially after sleeping, also often lead to a scratchy or sticky feeling in the eye. If, however, no foreign body can be seen in the eye, the feeling could have other causes and be the result of the nerves being over stimulated. People who suffer from dry or irritated eyes quite often experience a scratchy foreign body sensation in the eye.

A foreign body sensation in the eye can have different causes

There are a series of causes which can lead to a sensation of having a foreign body in the eye. For example, this could be an inflammation of the cornea or conjunctiva as well as a stye, or a purulent abscess on the eyelid margin. Even if there is not actually an object in the eye, you still have the feeling with this symptom of having a grain of sand rubbing in your eye. In addition, there are often accompanying symptoms such as reddening of, and burning in, the eye.

 

Another cause could be the damaging of nerves on the surface of the eye. If they are damaged, it can lead to a constant signalling even though no external irritant is impinging on the nerve. External influences such as draught or heat can also produce the unpleasant feeling of having a grain of sand in the eye. Quite often it is a dysfunction in the lubrication which is the cause for the foreign body sensation – the eyes are simply too dry.

Dryness in the eye leads to the sensation of having a foreign body in the eye

If the eyes are suffering from a dysfunction in lubrication, the tear film fails to cover the surface of the eye sufficiently. The lubrication with tears is then thin or unstable and easily breaks up. Every blink produces increased rubbing of the eyelids on the cornea. This causes stimulation of the sensitive nerve endings of the visual organ. This creates false sensations and people affected have the feeling that they have a grain of sand in the eye. There can also be a feeling of pain, scratching and itching.

 

Help can only be obtained by restoring the volume of the tear film. The natural fluid lubrication of the eye is restored with the aid of lubricating eye drops and the tear film is sustainably stabilized. Irritation should also diminish as should the feeling of having a foreign body in the eye.

Incrustations on the eye lead to severe rubbing

Dry eyes also lead to a foreign body sensation in another way: due to the lack of lacrimal fluid, many of those who are affected wake up with incrustations on their eyes which lead to having real foreign bodies in the eye. Overnight, these depositions stick the eyelids together, can get into the tear film when the eyes are opened and with every blink, scratch over the sensitive surface of the eye. The eyes are repeatedly irritated by these sometimes sharp-edged foreign bodies.

 

In this case, too, the eyes should be lubricated. During the day, eye drops such as HYLO®-GEL  are well-suited to supplying the eyes with intensive lubrication. At night time, VitA-POS® eye ointment is particularly good. Because of its soft composition, it hinders the formation of incrustations during sleep and prevents the unpleasant grain-of-sand feeling after waking up.