This past week, I got out my mower for what I hoped was my last mow of the season. Everyone knows it's a good idea to wear eye protection when you cut the grass. I normally do…in the form of eyeglasses. Granted, they're not ideal, but they give me a little more confidence doing yard work. In the event that I kick up something like a rock, my glasses will provide me with protection. Well, so I thought.
A little more than half way through, the wind blew a fair amount of grass clippings back in my face. My glasses ended up being of little help. Something got under them and landed in my eye. I tried to manufacture a few tears, at first, but this didn't help. I then tried rubbing my eye (bad decision) and still had no relief. Rather than stop my work right in the middle, I continued mowing and weed eating for about another half an hour. I blinked a lot and sometimes held my eye closed to try and find some relief.
When I got inside the house later on, my eye was irritated. I tried irrigating in a number of ways from the sink faucet to the shower to immersing my eyes in the sink to using saline solution. I experienced a degree of relief, but I still felt some discomfort. Perhaps the object was gone, but my cornea had sustained a slight amount of damage. It can still feel like there is something in your eye even though there isn't if your cornea is scratched. After an hour or so of trying, I realized I was going to have to see someone.
The next morning, I visited with my optometrist. He administered dye to highlight my cornea and make the damaged portions more visible. Following the examination, he assured me that he didn't see any foreign objects. He did, however, tell me that I had a mild amount of scratching and indicated that he was going to write me a prescription for some eye drops. When I asked him what was in the drops, he told me they contained both a steroid and an antibiotic.
While I'm personally disinclined towards prescription drugs in general, I'm particularly hesitant about steroids and antibiotics. Steroids shut off the body's inflammation response, which can actually be helpful. Inflammation increases blood flow to an area of the body where damage has occurred. It allows your immune system greater access to that part of your body so that it can fight off any potential infections and begin the process for tissue repair. While inflammation should be stopped when it becomes excessive, I didn't feel this particular case called for a steroid.
The doctor mentioned the antibiotic was being administered prophylactically. That is, to prevent any possible infection. Not that there was one, but the intent here was to make sure one didn't develop. My concern is that antibiotics have side effects. They kill microbes indiscriminately, which means beneficial flora are also affected. I'm not a fan of taking antibiotics unless I absolutely need to and again, it didn't feel warranted in this case.
I took the script with me with the intent of filling it later, if needed. Fortunately, my discomfort subsided over the next several hours on its own, so the drops ultimately proved unnecessary. By the end of the day, I no longer felt any irritation.
As a result of this experience, I asked myself what I could have done differently in order to have prevented this escalation. The following is a list of recommendations that can be followed to avoid or deal with a foreign object in the eye.
Wear closed goggles when doing yard work. I could've saved myself a lot of time and avoided a trip to the doctor's office had I worn googles that formed a seal around my eyes. Granted, they're not convenient, but they're preferable to spending the night irrigating and taking off from work the next day so you can visit the doctor. Even when his waiting room is empty, the appointment still takes an hour. Wear the goggles so you can spend your time doing the things you really want to be doing.
If you do get something in your eyes, stop what you're doing immediately and flush them. Sterile saline is preferable as it much more closely resembles the composition of your eye's fluid than tap water does. Place a towel on your sofa or bed and lay your head on it. Irrigate your eyes with the saline solution. Turn your head slightly towards your nose as this portion of the eye more easily allows foreign objects to exit. What's important here is that you address the problem immediately and do not continue working. Extending the time that the object is in your eye increases the likelihood of corneal abrasions and scratching. Every time you blink, you are raking the foreign object across the surface of your eye. Let that image motivate you to take action without delay.
Get Some Relief
You can reduce the irritation and redness by applying a cold washcloth across your eyes. This will allow for the blood vessels to constrict slightly and provide you with some relief. It won't entirely shut off the inflammation process, which is what your body uses to address the irritation.
Do not rub your eyes. Rubbing will merely move the object around and cause further damage. Flushing is the best way to remove a foreign object from your eye.
Take extra Cod Liver Oil or Fish Oil with your meals. The polyunsaturated fatty acids in the oils will help to rebuild the structure of the cornea and create anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. These prostaglandins will aid in shutting down the inflammatory response when the time is right. You should not apply any oils directly to the eye. This includes Essential Oils. Do not put anything in your eye that is not recommended. You can, however, apply some coconut oil, olive oil or tallow around the socket.
See Your Doctor
Visit your eye doctor if the irritation is moderate/severe or if you do not experience relief. It is important to discover whether or not the object is still in there. A specialist can provide assistance with removal and can then verify that the object is no longer present. It's a lot easier than trying to perform this task yourself.
My discomfort resolved itself quickly on the second day. Had the damage been more severe or I suffered any discharge the morning after, the prescription drops would've provided immediate help. I do believe you should consult with your physician before delaying or choosing an alternative course of treatment.
Ultimately, I hope this protocol can prevent you from having to go to the doctor's office in the first place! Your eyes are important, so remember how either prevention or quick action can go a long way. Happy mowing!