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Don't use Q-Tip for Corneal Foreign Body Removal

A young firefighter was referred to my office yesterday by his family doctor. The young man had complained of feeling something fly into his eye the day prior, and the doctor had discovered that the man had a small metallic foreign body embedded in the clear cornea that forms the front of the eye. Below is the photo that I shot yesterday afternoon.     This is a very common injury seen in an ophthalmology office. But frustratingly, doctors without the benefit of having ophthalmology slit lamp biomicroscopes often try to remove these using topical anesthetic eyedrops and a moistened cotton swab. Such a treatment usually ends up embedding the metal deeper into the eye, abrading the delicate surface epithelial cells on the outside of the cornea, or both. The proper way to remove these foreign bodies and avoid further injury is to use a forceful water spray if they are simply lying on the surface, or a sharp¬†instrument, such as a small needle, acting as a spatula flush with the corneal surface (parallel to the surface, not pointing inward). Many emergency rooms have slit lamps so that the doctors can remove these correctly. And of course, ophthalmologists and optometrists are able to do so as well. You must also receive assurance that all of the metal has been removed before undergoing an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging test).* -- Paul Krawitz, M.D., President and C.E.O. VisiVite.Com

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