Removing a metal foreign body from the cornea (Video)

This video shows the removal of metal particle from the surface of the eye using a needle. Metal particles can occur from metal grinding and machine work … the metallic flakes have a tendency to get into hair then fall onto the cornea and stick. This quickly rusts and if not removed soon, can cause extreme pain, infection, and recurrent corneal erosions.

There are many ways to remove foreign bodies like this, though I prefer to use a blunt 18-guage needle. Before any removal you must determine several things:

a. How deep is the body. You don’t want to create a corneal perforation when you take it out!
b. Is there an infiltrate around it? Metal tends to be sterile, but if infected, may require more aggressive antibiotic coverage.
c. How much rust is there? If possible, you want to remove rust rings. However, you can cause more damage if you are overaggressive. Rust will eventually work it’s way to the surface, though the area can develop recurrent erosions.

Download this video

To download this video, right click on a link below and choose “Save Target As…”

fbincornea.wmv (3.0 meg, Windows video file)


Metal foreign body cornea
This photo shows a small piece of metal that is stuck to the surface of the cornea. This is a common presentation to an ophthalmology clinic, as there are tons of people out their grinding metal. Most of these flakes are from metal dust that falls into the eye (ie. the stuff gets stuck in the hair and ends up in the eye later on). These metal pieces really stick to the cornea, and quickly rust and can cause infections if not removed.
Needle eye
This metal foreign body in the eye is being removed with an 18 guage needle.
Algerbrush cornea
This photo shows the removal of a rust ring from the cornea using an Alger brush. Some people prefer to dig residual rust using a needle, but the burr can be more controlled if used judiciously.
Rust Ring Cornea
When removing metal objects from the cornea, we try to remove as much rust as possible … the rust can slow healing, and cause epithelial erosions. However, sometimes the stuff is really deep such that aggresive digging will cause more damage than leaving it alone. Eventually, the rust will work it’s way out by itself.


Dr. Timothy Root is a practicing ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon in Daytona Beach, Florida. His books, video lectures, and training resources can be found at:


  1. looks crazy i have a peace in my eye i went to the er and they said i have to go to a eye doctor havent went yet still drives me crazy but that what happens when you dont have health ins hope 2 get it out b-4 i do major dammage…..

  2. Randy,
    I recommend seeing an eye doctor as soon as possible. In your case, you may want to find an ophthalmologist (M.D.) so they can prescribe you antibiotics if needed.

  3. I normally don’t give medical advice in this form, but I can absolutely say this:

    Do NOT have your friend remove this metal. You need to see an ophthalmologist who can do this under the microscope and judge how deep the material is embeded. The cornea is very thin and you do NOT want to perforate your cornea with a needle. See an eye doctor right away. Today would be best … this is not something you want to wait on! If you really have a piece of metal in the eye, it is already rusting and likely developing a bacterial infiltrate. The sooner you see an eye doctor, the better your long-term visual prognosis.

  4. You can go to an optometrist (Doctor of Optometry) too. They can remove the metal and prescribe antiobiotics as well as the ophthalmologist.

  5. I had this done last night. It feels a LOT better already. I don’t have that “sand in the eye” feeling anymore. Still really sensitive to light, and feels like the eye is being squeezed really tight. But it DOES feel better. If you have a rust ring……..get it taken care of! That’s my advice!


  6. My husband found out he has a mental in his eye today. I think he had it from last Friday. The doctor sent him to an ophthalmologist to get it out. Will he be able to drive right after its been taken out? How much does it normally cost?

  7. I am a Safety Manager for a construction company which is involved in a lot of steel fabrication, welding, and grinding. I plan to use the video (Removal of Rust Ring) in our Eye Injury Prevention Program.

    I was searching for information on the shortest length of time it takes for a rust ring to form after a metal particle has entered the eye … 2 hours? …6 hours? … more? Is there any information that you can share on this?

  8. I just had a piece of metal that was buried deep into my cornia taken out yesterday morning. By early this evening, the bandages came off and I felt 100% better. The opthmalogist / surgeon said that I have a small rust ring that will probably be pushed out as a foreign body and a small crater that doesn’t appear to be visible with the naked eye. For the time being, he prescribed an antibiotic drop (tobra-dex) to use 4x a day for 2 weeks. I was able to drive right after the procedure but would not advise it until the bandage comes off because it’s like driving with one eye closed.

  9. This video was very comprehensive. I was able to see the entire procedure. It gave me an appreciation of how important it is to see a professional should a foreign body entires the eye.

  10. Hi my husband had a foreign object removed with a needle and the local dr has put a hole in the cornea How dangerous is this as we are 700km from any hospital my husband also has a history of eye problems he has had previouse ops on this eye The dr here was very caring and I am sure has done
    everything she thinks is right

  11. i am a new graduate and had to bur rust rings recently, 12th nov 2011. I want to know if the rust lines will totally disappear? My patient still has that residual rings on central to posterior stroma. Honestly, i’m not sure what to do beside reviewing him daily and hoping it’s good enough.

  12. I’m going through the same thing. Just had a Dr take some metal put, left a ring. Still hurts like hell and my vision isnt much better. Going back in a few days, hope it clears up!

  13. @felix: I’m a new grad too and had the same problem! I’ve heard that sometimes the rust is too deep for adequate removal and leaving it won’t cause too many problems. I find that 1 day follow ups aren’t helpful because it takes time for rust to work its way to the surface. I’d say 1 week follow ups are sufficient…let me know what you think!

  14. Had and still have the same problem,from cutting with a circular saw.
    Had protection goggles,but I looked under them for a few seconds,and then it happen.

    At first you don’t feel any kind of pain at all,just a little itchy.

    My advice will be to let the tool down,try not to blink to many times,DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYE WITH YOUR HANDS,do not try to remove it yourself,go directly to an eye doctor AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

    If you can’t go to an eye doctor right away[like I couldn’t]just try not to scratch your eye,and again : DON’T TRY TO REMOVE IT YOURSELF !
    It will only get worse,and the foreign body will only get in deeper,causing worse problems.

    In case someone is scared about the procedure,believe me,you don’t feel any kind of pain.
    The only thing you “feel” is your eye kinda “moving”.
    I will say that its not a pleasant experience at all.
    You may feel sick,and just…scared I guess ?
    The second time I felt a bit of pain,and was even more scared than the first time.

    From my own experience,I had the foreign body removed after 3 days.
    At first I didn’t knew it was such a big deal.
    The eye doctor managed to take the metal thing out of my eye,and managed to remove some rust,but “forgot” to mention that I still had some rust inside.
    Tho she said I should go back for a checkup in 2 days [I went the next day]

    I haven’t seen my eye since I first went to the doctor,so I have no idea if I have that rust ring on it or not.

    She prescribed me some eye drops and somekind of cream.
    I still have to keep the bandage on for another 2 days [makes a total of 4 days]

    I feel dizzy sometimes,my head hurts and I have some depth perception problems [of course I didn’t had any of those problems when I used my both eyes].

    At the moment,I still have some rust in my eye,but the eye doctor said i should be fine and that I shouldn’t go back for another control.
    However,if it still hurts after a few days,I should go directly to see her or any other eye doctor.

    I have no idea about the costs of this procedure.
    I had it made for free [taxes from my income covers any kind of medical problems that are taken care by my local hospital]

    Hope nobody had any permanent damages from this problem.

  15. Hello,

    I have multiple glass shrapnel particals in both of my eyes.
    Can they be treated with diamond burr to improve the surface of my cornea ?

  16. When watching a friend from a distance to cut some metal with angle grinder a tiny piece of metal shaving landed in my eye and lodged under the upper eye lid. At first it did not hurt much but it got worse with blinking. I went to ER of the Sydney Eye Hospital about 30 hours after the event and was told by the doctors it was the smart thing to do. The metal shaving was quickly removed after flipping up the eye lid by the triage nurse on arrival but a rust ring already stared forming on the cornea. It was partly removed by the doctor using a needle under local anesthetic and then by an electric burring tool was used to “grind off” the rest. I did not feel a thing and now have drops and eye cream to use for 7 days. The eye feels much better than before. With eye injuries the rule is not to delay seeking qualified medical help.

  17. what if the metal was in part of the eye right after the pupil,, is it the iris? im not sure. i went to a doctor and he was able to remove it. now, he required me to use two kinds of eyedrops but everytime i use it, i feel some pain especially in the eyelids. what do you think is the cause of this? i dont know if i got some bruises under my eyelids or there is still a metal thing or rust on it.. need some help please.. i dont want to go back to a doctor as much as possible.

    thanks for the help.

  18. My husband got a piece of metal in his eye, a couple days later went to get it checked and then found out what it was, the Dr removed rust also and prescribed 2 kinds of drops, wasn’t getting better went back had a deep infection and got 2 more kinds of drops. Still not getting better should he see another Dr? It has been 2 weeks total so far and expected it to be better! How long should this process take?

  19. My husband find out that he got a piece of metal in his eye, but he doesn’t know when its happend. He has no pain no irritation nothing. how dangerous its goin to be?

  20. I just had that procedure done an hour ago. I always wear safety glasses, but things do happen. Grinding some metal on a sunday, i didnt notice any discomfort til late wed night. Irritation would not go away, pain, redness, all the symptoms. I went to the local eye DR. he checked it out, and immediately knew it was a piece of metal lodged into my cornea. Formed a rust ring too. Anyhow, they surgery took about 4-6 min, cost me $120, meds cost $93 for Tobramycin. Still feeling discomfort, but i hear it will subside soon, i go back in a week for a follow up. THIS SUCKS, been a fabricator, motorcycles and cars for over 15 years, need to be more careful. Even cheap safety glasses cant save you!!!!

  21. have a 2 mm piece of wire in my eye may be a wire brush
    from what i read a magnet and forceps is the way to go
    to hard to do it from my good eye and a mirror going to a Dr. monday.

  22. Any ER dr. should .be able to remover a foreign body on the cornea. so could a GP of 20-30 yrs. ago. But the Family Practice Specialists of today don’t. In the early 80’s HMO’s castrated FP’s and made them Gate-Keepers. A Dr. can’t stay in practice with office visits only So modern FP’s in my area just blood test the heck out of you; And then refer you to a specialist. (next pt. please)

  23. Thank you for the video it was quite helpful and it worked like a charm. But I would definitely exercise extreme caution when putting a needle towards your eyes due to obvious reasons. also I would practice a more safer route first and use this as a last ditch effort seek professional help

  24. It’s looks very much amazing but, it is also so much painful if somebody happens it so he can realize about it ,so I had get good suggestion from this video because I had seen 2 such cases of such types


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here