If you can’t remove glass from your skin and it’s causing pain – you should read this article
You accidentally tip a glass off the counter and it falls on the floor. It shatter into a million pieces and now is everywhere. You clean it up the best you can but miss some tiny shards. Later you walk barefoot and a glass goes into your foot. You try removing it but you can’t find it. You leave it alone hoping it will work itself out but it never does. It just goes deeper and deeper.
This is what happened to me two years ago, and I still have a piece of glass in my foot. Broken glass can quickly penetrate the skin leaving no detectable entrance point, causing no inflammation. Your skin will heal and seal the glass in. The only thing you’ll feel is pain, discomfort and misery. Oh, that is just fantastic.
Glass moves deeper into your skin as you walk. You must aggressively remove it ASAP. Don’t think a shard of glass will work itself out, a common mistake many people do, and even your doctor might tell you that.
Hands or feet?
If you got it in your hands you’re lucky. Hands are a better location than feet. You can see it and access. The foot will require someone to help you. Unfortunately, the foot is always more at risk.
After realizing the broken glass would not come out on its won, I begun soaking my feet in hot water and salt. This is a good idea because hot water relaxes and expand your skin and tissues while the salt gently pull foreign objects out due to its hypertonic environment; since salt has a greater concentration of solutes. But this only works if you act immediately after the accident, if you let a few days go by it is useless.
I did this for weeks with no luck. The glass had already gone deep into my skin and it was sealed in. You might be able to poke holes with a sterile needle creating a way for the shard to come out. Many are not found of this idea.
I went to a doctor. Doctors will look at it for a moment and order tests. I went to 5 different doctors. I had multiple X-rays, ultrasound scans, MRI, CAT scans. Nada, zilch, finito.
I even had a session with a highly specialized high frequency transducer hokey stick puck ultrasound. This fancy machine might work in some cases and can detect broken glass better than your average doctor’s office ultrasound.
This may help you but good luck finding a doctor that even know what that is. I happened to be lucky to work with a doctor who knew someone who did. I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area – a center for innovative medical technology, and ever here it was difficult to find it.
None of the doctor I visited were able to find a definite landmark leading to surgery. Doctors will not perform surgery unless they can see it, and I don’t blame them. If you get them to agree to a exploratory surgery you might end up with more damage to your tissues then you already have. Surgery can cause damage and scar tissue; broken glass in your foot does the same.
Your body have ways to assimilate glass after a few years, I was told. So why do I still feel the broken glass inside? This happens due to scar tissue produced by the shard injury. Scar tissue can feel exactly as a piece of broken grass. The funny thing however is that, once you realize that, it feels less painful somehow when you step or walk – there is a psychological component to pain.
After a few weeks inside your foot, a shard of broken glass is identified as a foreign body and is encased by scar tissue. But your body is so efficient isolating the glass it aggressively makes a hard and strong capsule. Sometimes it is so big and hard it presses against nerves creating nerve inflammation. So you feel like you’re stepping on a hard lump and it can cause great discomfort. So if you can’t remove it by surgery because you risk causing more painful scar tissue, what to do?
Here is what you do first
Trick #1 – remove it as soon as you can
If you step in a piece of glass, removed it as soon as you can. Get a sterile tweezers or a needle and dig, dig, dig until you remove it. Remove a large part of you skin if you need, but make sure the shard is out.
Soak it with hot water and salt for 20 min everyday until you feel the glass is out. Don’t let a lot of time elapse thinking that it will come out on its own. The deeper the glass goes in the more difficult or impossible it will be to remove it and the more chances of affecting a nerve.
The more you walk the worse it will be. This is a mistake I did; walking is like a perfect mechanism to make the glass travel deeper inside your foot.
Trick #2 – soaking in hot water
Say you could not remove it with the tweezers or needle. Soaking in hot water at this point will help you body to push the shard out. Use table salt because it creates the hyper tonic solution you need. You can also add Epson salts because it further relaxes your tissues but Epson salts alone will not work. Do it everyday for 20 minutes. At the drugstores they sell these foot massage basins. The massage vibration is great to loose the little bastards out of your foot.
Trick #3 – use suction
The bottle trick. This is one I wished I knew at the beginning. Heat a small bottle such as a medicine of condiment bottle that have a small opening. Clean your skin where the shard but leave a little bit of misture to help with the sealing. Heat up the bottle at the stove but be careful that the flames don’t crack the glass. Once the bottle is hot to the touch, apply press the opening with force against the area where the glass might be. As the bottle begins to cool it will produce pressure and suction hopefully pulling foreign objects out of your skin. It could work in some cases.
Trick #4 – remove by thick tar
Apply Ichthammol Ointment 20%, (Drawing Salve) 1oz Tube (28.3g) . This is a old fashion medication. A thick black tarry substance that will pull things out of your skin. Just going to warn you – this is a nasty tar that is difficult to clean and very thick and stick to your skin. Apply to your skin and leave it for a significant amount of time. It also helps is you soak your feet in hot water prior to applying.
Trick #5 – remove by using glue
Crazy glue to the rescue. If you ever got a drop of crazy glue between your fingers and end up with one finger stuck to the other, you know the power of this glue. They don’t call it crazy glue for nothing. This will work if the shard of glass is somewhat protruding out of your feet but not enough to be grabbed or seen. Apply crazy glue to a small area where the shard is, wait until it dries (3 seconds) and to peel it off. You might have to pull part of your skin out but hopefully the shard will in there with the skin.
You’ve tried everything and nothing works
There is a moment when you realize you’ll never remove the piece of glass. It’s OK don’t panic, there are things you can do. The objective now is to remove or smooth out your scar tissue, because that is what is causing you pain.
If you can’t remove the glass and painful scar tissue have formed, there is only one thing you can do – inject cortisone directly in the scar tissue. Cortisone will dissolve or alter the shape of your scar tissue. But this is not a simple straight foreword process as it may seem. Applying the injection requires a special technique, that I found out by trial and error, and you might need to work that out with your doctor until you get results.
The injection need to be placed inside the scar tissue. You would think doctors know about this detail but they might not. This is why my first two injections failed to work. The scar tissue is usually very small. You need to locate the exact spot and this might be a challenge.
If you are about to perform an injection you need to massage the area and feel the painful lumpy place and make a mark with a hypodermic pen.
A good idea is to soak you feet in the foot soaker massager for 20 minutes with warm water. After doing so you’ll be able to feel the lump with ease. Locating it is the key here.
Then you instruct your doctor to apply the injection from the bottom up, directly into the scar tissue. Some doctors might want to approach from the side of the foot, and that may not work.
So, here’s what to expect
- If you miss the spot there is no pain and just a numb sensation that lasts a few hours. After that it will feel like nothing changed. You walk and the pain still there, so you might think these injections are good for nothing.
- If your injection is spot on to the scar tissue, it is a whole different ball game. You’ll feel a lot of pain and the pain that will last for about 3 days. That is good news. Because once the pain subsides you’ll be a new person. 80% (in my case) of the pain and discomfort will be gone.
But wait there’s more…
After a successful injection of cortisone, you need to work a little. Scar tissue is a complex and edgy and needs to be brushed out of the nerve structures. So, you need to manually make sure that things get better aligned between your nerves.
Soaking and massage
I strongly urge you to get an electric soaker with vibration. There is some magic that happens when you apply vibration, it help to break down scar tissue. I soak in hot water for 20 minutes everyday and than massage it with arnica oil. This oil have great nerve healing medicinal properties and it is also used for diabetic nerve pain. Another excellent product is the Dr. Christopher’s Formula Complete Tissue and Bone Ointment. Massage the area vigorously with any of these products for a few minutes and every day after warm water soaking.
Dr Christopher’s Formula Complete Tissue and Bone Ointment, 4 Ounce
How to massage
When I say massage it is far from the traditional pleasure of having a massage. After soaking in hot water (warm) apply arnica oil or Dr. Christopher’s ointment and start by trying to feel where the lump is. Start pushing vigorously with your thumb, as if you are trying to straighten or simply disperse the lump. It might hurt but each time you do you’ll notice it gets less painful. Do it until there is no pain or you simple don’t feel the lump anymore.
After 2 years of suffering with a shard of glass on my foot I finally found some relief. I never thought a small shard of glass could cause so much trouble. The best way to prevent this from happening is to not step on a shard of glass in the first place.
Doctor’s office or ER
Health care is all about specialty. Most family practitioners don’t know enough about this type of injury, which can be quite serious and sometimes underestimated by family doctors. Care for this type of injury is a very specialized area and if you look for a doctor to treat you, make sure this MD is a specialist. If you can’t find one, you might be better off going to an emergency room. Nurses and doctors in ER’s are much more familiarized with glass injury as the see it all the time.
Broken glass does not travel to other areas
One big fear people have is that a broken glass piece will move inside the body and go to different areas, and eventually get into the blood stream – that does not happen due to the fast and effective scar tissue formation.
The real danger is in the actual injury glass can cause, specially if is big. It can cause severe damage to your nerves and tendons but if the shard is very small it just get covered with scar tissue and stop at about 0.5 cm from the surface of your skin.
- Management of Foreign Bodies in the Skin
- Sonography of the Hand and Foot in Foreign Body Detection
- Non-opaque soft tissue foreign body: sonographic findings
- Detection of Soft Tissue Foreign Bodies in the Presence of Soft Tissue Gas
- US of Soft-Tissue Foreign Bodies and Associated Complications with Surgical Correlation
- High Frequency Ultrasonic Imaging
Image credit: Charli Lopez