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It Feels Like Something Is in My Eye: Causes and Treatment

The surface of your eyes is incredibly sensitive. In fact, corneal tissue is up to 600 times more sensitive than standard skin. Even the tiniest bit of grit or swelling could be excruciating, especially when you blink or move your eyeball. 

The feeling of a foreign substance in your eye can be very uncomfortable. Sometimes, the sensation goes away on its own. If it persists, you may be forced to scratch and itch your eyes, which could cause more damage and pain. 

man with itchy eyes

If you cannot establish a clear cause, you should consider seeing a specialist. As with most vision complications, the sooner you get your eyes professionally examined, the better.

What Causes You to Feel Like You Have Something in Your Eye?

Several conditions can cause the gritty, uncomfortable sensation that something is stuck in your eye. Some of them are mild and will fade quickly. But others are serious and require a doctor’s help. 

Here’s what you need to know:


Chalazia are small, red, sore eyelid lumps caused by blocked oil glands. When a chalazion develops along the eyelid’s edge, you may feel like there’s something stuck in your eye whenever you blink.

A doctor should diagnose a chalazion. Visit your doctor as soon as you see one of these bumps, and ask what you should do next. 

Your chalazion should fade, but it can take weeks for the bump to shrink. Applying a warm compress over the affected eye will help. If it doesn’t get better, your doctor can use medications or incisions to reduce inflammation and swelling. 


Also known as pink eye, conjunctivitis is a condition in which your conjunctiva grows inflamed. Inflammation caused by pink eye can leave you feeling like there’s something stuck in your eye. 

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Itching
  • Redness 
  • A burning sensation
  • Excessive watering in the affected eye

Three main forms of conjunctivitis exist, including the following:

  • Viral forms of conjunctivitis can take up to three weeks to clear.
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis requires medication, and it might take two weeks to improve. 
  • Allergic conjunctivitis may not get better until the trigger is removed. 

Visit your doctor for an appropriate treatment plan and diagnosis. 

Corneal Ulcers 

Corneal ulcers are open wounds on the cornea caused by viruses, fungal infections, parasites, and bacterial infections. Blinking will be hard with an open sore, and you will feel like something is stuck inside your eye.

Corneal ulcers can cause symptoms like blurred vision, white spots on the cornea, discharge, and severe pain. Wearing contact lenses increases your chances of developing this condition. 

Corneal ulcers require prompt medical intervention because they can permanently damage your eyes, potentially causing blindness.

Doctors most likely will prescribe antiviral, antifungal, or antibacterial eye drops to dilate your pupils and reduce the chance of further complications. 


Pinguecula is a condition where noncancerous growth develops on the conjunctiva. The bump presents as a yellowish patch, and you are more likely to develop the disease as you age.

Common pinguecula symptoms include general vision complications, dryness, itching, redness, and excessive tearing.  

Unless the pinguecula causes pain or severe vision changes, treatment isn’t required. But your doctor can use prescription eye drops to keep the bump small and discomfort low. Most people get such relief from these drops that they don’t need further treatment

Ocular Herpes 

Ocular herpes, or eye herpes, is an eye infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. 

Symptoms of eye herpes include discharge, inflammation, redness, eye pain, and watery eyes. 

If you suspect you have eye herpes, visit your eye specialist immediately. You likely will receive steroid eye drops or antiviral medication. 

Eye herpes can have lasting effects on your eyes, including blindness. It is important to seek medical intervention as soon as possible and to follow the recommended treatment plan. 

Dry Eyes

Dryness in the eyes is a common problem that happens when tears cannot moisten the surface of your eyes. 

Whenever you blink, a thin layer of tears is spread throughout the eye, and this helps with clear vision and general eye health. 

When the thin tear film is not spread throughout the eye as you blink, it can result in dry eyes. The dryness can feel like there is something stuck in your eyes.

Causes of dry eyes include environmental factors, such as wind, smoke, or dry air. Additional causes are seasonal allergies and prescription medications. The best way to deal with dry eyes is by using over-the-counter lubricating eye drops. 


Blepharitis makes your eyelids swollen and itchy. Sometimes, it causes crusty flaking along the lash line, and that debris can fall into your eyes. Blepharitis can make you feel like there’s something in your eyes. 

Cleaning your eyelids regularly can keep blepharitis symptoms under control. Use water and a gentle cleanser to remove eye crust every day. If that doesn’t help, your doctor might recommend eye drops or ointments to control bacterial colonies that are worsening your blepharitis. 

Fungal keratitis 

Fungal keratitis is a corneal infection, typically caused by eye injury or improper contact lens use. In addition to eye pain and tearing, you may experience reduced vision and increased light sensitivity.

Fungal keratitis is serious. If it’s left untreated, this condition can cause blindness. See your doctor immediately for antifungal eye drops and oral medications. 


A pterygium is a growth of fleshy tissue, including blood vessels, on the surface of the eye. Some of these growths start out as pinguecula. 

If a pterygium grows large enough you may notice it when you blink or move the eyeball. Lubricating or steroid eye drops may help. But if they don’t, a doctor can perform surgery to remove it. 

Foreign Objects 

A healthy eye can flush out small objects, such as eyelashes and sand. But sometimes, something gets stuck inside your eye and needs help to get back out.

You may need a doctor’s help for something in your eye if these symptoms appear:

  • Significant eye pain
  • Light sensitivity 
  • Decreased vision 

You should also see a doctor immediately if you were hammering, grinding, or otherwise in contact with metal fragments right before symptoms appear. 

Your doctor can use numbing drops and surgical techniques to remove the object and help your eye to heal. 

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When Should You See a Doctor?

Some of the conditions causing eye pain can be serious. If you feel like something is caught in your eye, and a few quick blinks don’t make things feel better, call your doctor and ask what to do next. 

Your doctor may ask about your symptoms, what you’ve tried as self-care, and how long the pain has lasted. With this data, your doctor can determine an appropriate treatment plan and offer helpful next steps.


  1. Corneal Innervation and Sensation: The Eye and Beyond. (March 2018). Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. 

  2. Chalazion. American Optometric Association.

  3. Conjunctivitis Treatment. (January 2019). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  4. What Is a Corneal Ulcer (Keratitis)? (October 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  5. What Is a Pinguecula and a Pterygium (Surfer’s Eye)? (November 2021) American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  6. What is Herpes Keratitis? (May 2023). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  7. How Tears Work. (June 2019) National Eye Institute.

  8. Blepharitis. (August 2020). National Eye Institute.

  9. What Is Fungal Keratitis? (October 28, 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  10. Eyes: Foreign Object In. (December 2021). U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Last Updated October 5, 2023

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.

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