The good news is that the most likely cause is NOT worms, even though these CAN make your eye feel like something’s in it.

So what, then, is the most common cause?

“This is most commonly caused by dry eye,” says Kaushal M. Kulkarni, MD, board certified ophthalmologist and neuro-ophthalmologist in private practice in New York.

What Is Dry Eye?

 Dr. Kulkarni explains, “Dry eye (also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca or superficial punctate keratitis) is a multifactorial disorder caused by inflammation in and around the eyes. The symptoms include any or all of the following:

Blurred vision

Burning/Itching

Discharge

Double vision

Foggy vision

Hazy vision

Light sensitivity

Loss of vision

Redness

Soreness

Tearing

Sandy/gritty sensation

Scratching

Sharp pain

Stinging

“The onset of symptoms can be sudden or gradual. The blurred vision is typically worse when on the computer, reading or driving. It sometimes improves with rest or with blinking or with an artificial lubricating drop.”

Dry eye is very common. It’s probably why your eyes persistently feel like something’s in there, on the whites, the iris or under a lid.

You keep checking in a mirror, perhaps a magnification mirror, pulling down on the lower lid, yanking up on the upper lid, in search of an eyelash or tiny crumb-like piece of “dirt,” but you see nothing at all.

You figure maybe it’s your imagination, but soon after putting the mirror down, you once again are plagued by the sensation that something foreign is IN your eye somewhere. No amount of splashing water in your eyes provides relief.

Something is stuck in one or both eyes and this sensation is with you throughout the day.

Put in some lubricating eye drops and see what happens. It may take several days, with three applications every four hours, before you no longer feel like something is always in your eye.

Who Gets Dry Eye and Its Causes

“Women over the age of 30 are most commonly affected,” says Dr. Kulkarni. “It is common in women with depression or anxiety. It is also common in people who wear contact lenses.

“Dry eye is a multifactorial inflammatory condition. This means there is not one single cause, but many different factors that come together to cause inflammation in the eyes.  Dry eye is extremely common in hot or dry climates.”

A small percentage of people who’ve had LASIK will have permanent dry eye and need to always use lubricating drops. Without the drops they will frequently feel as though something is in their eyes.

But what if you have not had any refractive surgery? Dr. Kulkarni names the following additional possible causes:

Allergies

Autoimmune disorders

Computer/phone use

Depression

Hormonal changes

Hypothyroidism

Insufficient sleep

Rosacea

Weather/climate

“Medications are also a common cause of dry eye,” says Dr. Kulkarni. “These include medications for:

  • Blood pressure (especially diuretics and B-blockers such as atenolol or metoprolol)
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Allergies
  • Sleeping pills

The first course of treatment is to try lubricating drops or the so-called artificial tears.

There are mild, moderate and severe degrees of strength for these drops. There are also gel tears that are best used overnight.

If even the highest degree of strength doesn’t solve the problem, see an ophthalmologist.

Dr. Kulkarni has a special interest in optic nerve regeneration.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.

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Top image: Shutterstock/Emily frost