If a person can feel something in their eye, it is typically an eyelash, some dust, or a grain of sand. However, abrasions, infections, ulcers, dry eyes, and other health issues can cause a similar feeling.

Dry eyes and inflammation of the eyelids can make it feel as though something is in the eye. Some causes of this sensation are benign, while others might require immediate medical attention to prevent vision loss.

Read on to learn about why a person might feel that something is in the eye, as well as some ways to relieve the discomfort.

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Corneal abrasions are a possible cause of eye discomfort.

The cornea is the dome-shaped window on the surface of the eye. It is possible to damage the cornea.

For example, a person who accidentally scratches their cornea with their fingernail, a makeup brush, or a foreign object may experience the feeling that something is in their eye — despite not being able to find a foreign object.


According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), a small abrasion should take 1–2 days to heal, whereas a larger one may take 1 week.

Some treatment options include:

  • wearing an eye patch to prevent further damage
  • using eye drops to soothe the cornea
  • antibiotic eye drops to prevent infections until the abrasion heals

A corneal laceration involves a cut in the cornea and is deeper than a corneal abrasion. The cut can partially or fully lacerate the cornea. Typically, this occurs due to trauma from a sharp object flying into or striking the eye.


According to the AAO, a corneal laceration is serious, and to prevent loss of vision, a person should seek immediate medical attention.

If a laceration occurs, a person should place a shield, such as the bottom of a plastic cup, over the eye for protection. They should then see an ophthalmologist.

A person should avoid:

  • rinsing the eye with water
  • removing any foreign objects
  • applying pressure to the eye
  • taking medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen, as these can thin the blood and cause more bleeding

A corneal ulcer is an open sore on the cornea. A person can develop ulcers from severe dry eyes, infections, or other eye conditions. Some signs and symptoms of a corneal ulcer may include:

  • redness
  • severe pain and soreness
  • the feeling of having something in the eye
  • tearing
  • pus or discharge
  • blurred vision
  • sensitivity to light
  • swelling of the eyelids
  • a white spot on the cornea


An eye doctor might prescribe eye drops to treat the infection. After the infection has gone, they may prescribe steroid or anti-inflammatory eye drops to prevent scarring. For steroid eye drops, it is important to follow the dosing instructions carefully.

Surgical treatment may also be an option. A corneal transplant may be necessary if the ulcer has caused significant scarring or the person experiences a loss of vision.

Fungal keratitis is an infection of the cornea. Fungal keratitis can develop as a result of contact lens use or injury to the eye. Different fungi can cause fungal keratitis, including Fusarium, Aspergillus, and Candida. People with fungal keratitis may feel as though there is something in their eye.

Other symptoms may include:

  • pain
  • redness
  • blurred vision
  • sensitivity to light
  • excessive tearing
  • discharge


Treatment options for fungal keratitis may include antifungal medications such as natamycin, amphotericin B, or voriconazole for several months.

If the infection does not improve, a corneal transplant may be necessary.

Sjögren’s syndrome, also known as Sjögren’s disease, is an autoimmune condition. It develops when the immune cells attack and damage the tear and saliva glands. Sjögren’s affects around 1–4 million people in the U.S., who are typically over the age of 50. Females are also more likely to develop Sjogren’s syndrome.

The two main symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, due to the body not being able to produce tears or enough saliva. Other symptoms affecting the eyes and mouth may include:

  • itching and burning eyes
  • a sensation similar to that of sand being in the eyes
  • blurred vision
  • sensitivity to light
  • difficulty swallowing
  • a chalky feeling in the mouth


The treatment for Sjogren’s syndrome includes using artificial tears during the day. During the night, a person can use a gel. Prescription eye drops are also an option.

When outside, a person can wear sunglasses or goggles to help shield the eyes and prevent tears from evaporating.

If it is more severe, punctal occlusion might help. This procedure requires an eye doctor to put small plugs in the tear ducts to block them. This can help tears stay on the eyes for longer, thereby keeping them moist.

Dry eye describes when the eyes produce too few tears, or the tears evaporate too quickly. As the name suggests, this can cause the eyes to feel dry, uncomfortable, and as if something is in the eye.

Dry eye is typically more common in people over 65, females, those in drier climates, people who take certain medications, such as antihistamines, antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and individuals with certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid problems, and diabetes.


Artificial tears are over-the-counter (OTC) solutions that help treat dry eyes. Eye doctors may recommend preservative-free eye drops, since these cause less irritation.

A person can also relieve dry eyes at home by blinking regularly, maintaining hydration, and increasing the humidity in the surroundings, if possible.

Blepharitis describes inflammation of the eyelids. Typically, this results in redness, stickiness of the eyelid, and clumping of scaly skin around the base of the eyelashes. It can also cause the sensation of a foreign body in the eye.

Blepharitis often occurs due to an inflammatory reaction in response to an eye infection. Eye doctors sometimes diagnose blepharitis in people with seborrheic dermatitis of the face and scalp, which also causes flaking of the skin.


In blepharitis, treatment includes good eyelid hygiene practices and warm compresses. This may involve cleaning the eyelids with baby shampoo or lid scrubs. It may also include applying topical antibiotics to the lid margins for 2–8 weeks.

Some people may need oral antibiotics or corticosteroids for blepharitis cases that do not respond to topical treatment.

Also known as “pink eye,” conjunctivitis causes inflammation of the conjunctiva. This is the transparent, lubricating membrane covering the surface of the eye, except the cornea.

Symptoms of conjunctivitis include:

  • redness of the eyes
  • discharge
  • pain
  • foreign body sensation
  • morning matting of the eyes
  • itching
  • tearing
  • inflamed eyelids

The most common causes of conjunctivitis include viruses, bacteria, and allergens.


If allergies or adenoviruses are the cause of conjunctivitis, artificial tears may help relieve the symptoms.

A person with conjunctivitis may require antibiotics, depending on the cause of the infection. Eye doctors can prescribe either antibiotic drops or ointments.

Sometimes, oral or intramuscular antibiotics may be necessary.

A chalazion is a growth inside the eyelid. It typically starts off as a painless lump, but it can cause impaired vision and discomfort with time. It typically occurs due to blockage and swelling of an oil gland in the eyelid.


Chalazia may not require treatment, as they tend to be self-limiting and benign. Research suggests that most cases of chalazia resolve after roughly 1 month with proper eye hygiene techniques. Treatment options include using a warm compress 3–5 times per day for 10–15 minutes.

Medication includes steroids. Or, if an eye doctor suspects that the cause is an infection, a person can take antibiotics instead. For persistent lesions, surgery may be necessary.

Pinguecula causes yellowish growths to develop on the conjunctiva. Eye doctors typically find this condition on the side of the eye closest to the nose.

People with pterygium, or surfer’s eye, have fleshy growths on their conjunctiva that may have originated as a pinguecula. A pterygium can stay small, but if it grows large, it may affect a person’s vision.

Eye doctors believe that pinguecula and pterygium develop due to exposure to UV light, wind, and dust.


Although surgeons can remove these growths, they may grow back. Eye protection measures such as wrap-around sunglasses and artificial tears can help prevent regrowth.

A person with a corneal laceration or ulcer requires immediate medical attention to prevent vision loss.

Anyone who thinks that they have a foreign body in their eye should consult with an eye doctor for a full eye examination. A person should also contact an eye doctor if they are unable to identify a foreign object that may be causing eye discomfort.

If treatment for foreign body sensation is unsuccessful, a person should consult an eye doctor for follow-up.

When artificial tears are inadequate to lubricate the eyes, a person should see an eye doctor. They can recommend other treatments and suggest follow-up appointments to prevent the progression to advanced dry eye. People with advanced dry eyes might eventually experience vision loss.

Doctors can also diagnose the cause of dry eye, such as a medical condition or certain medication, and suggest different strategies to treat them.

People with eye infections should consult a doctor to determine whether or not treatment with antibiotics is necessary.

Anyone with eye pain, vision loss, severe discharge, scarring of the conjunctiva, or a frequent feeling that something is in the eye should consult an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

Some frequently asked questions about eye discomfort and removing foreign objects from the eye may include:

Why do I feel like something is in my eye but nothing there?

Many eye conditions can cause a gritty sensation in the eye. In many cases, the exact cause may not be obvious or visible.

How do you get rid of something is in the eye that you cannot see?

If a person is experiencing a foreign body sensation in their eye, home remedies can help provide relief. Options can include using artificial tears and a warm compress using a warm washcloth. If these do not resolve discomfort, a person should consult a doctor.

What does it mean if your eye feels like it has something in it, it hurts, and keeps watering up?

There are many possible causes for why a person may experience eye discomfort. These can include corneal abrasions and lacerations, ulcers, keratitis, dry eye, infections, chalazions, pinguecula, and pterygium.

A person may feel as though there is something in their eye for one of many reasons. Some may involve actual foreign objects, but others may not.

Dry eyes and conjunctivitis are two reasons that a person may feel as though something is in their eye. OTC artificial tears can help resolve this symptom. Other infections and injuries to the eye may require urgent medical attention.

Anyone who suspects that they have an infection or eye injury should consult an eye doctor to prevent long-term damage and vision loss.