If you can’t remove glass from your skin and it’s causing pain – you should read this article
So you accidentally tip a glass off the counter and it falls to the floor. It shatters into a million pieces and now is everywhere. You clean it up but you miss some tiny shards. Later you walk barefoot and a glass goes into your foot. You try removing but you can’t see 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 of your foot leaving no detectable entrance point, and causing no inflammation. Your skin will heal and seal the glass in. The only thing you’ll feel is pain and discomfort. Oh, that’s just great.
Glass just keep going into the skin. You must aggressively remove it ASAP. Don’t think a shard of glass will work itself out, a common mistake many will do.
Hands or feet?
If you have it on your hands you’re lucky. Hands are a better location than feet. You can see it and access it. The foot will require someone to help you. Unfortunately, the foot is more at risk.
After realizing a broken glass would not come out on its won, I begun by soaking my feet in hot water and salt. This is a good idea because hot water relaxes and expand your skin and tissues while salt gently pull things out due to hypertonic environment; since salt has a greater concentration of solutes. But this only works if you act immediately after the glass goes in and is not very deep yet.
I did this for weeks with no luck. The glass had already gone deep into my skin and it was sealed it in. You might be able to poke holes with a sterile needle creating a way out. Many are not found of this idea.
So, 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, ziltch, finito.
I even had a highly specialized high frequency transducer hokey stick puck ultrasound. This fancy machine might work in some cases and it 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, it was difficult to find it here.
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 then you already have from the piece of broken glass. Surgery can cause damage and scar tissue and the broken glass does the same.
The body have ways to assimilate it after a few years (this is what one doctor told me, not sure If I believe that). So why do I still feel the broken glass in my foot? You are left with scar tissue and that can be equally painful. Scar tissue can feel exactly as a piece of broken grass. The funny thing however is that, once you learn that, somehow it feels less painful to step and 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 around the broken glass. Sometimes it is so big and hard it presses against nerves and create 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 a shard goes in your foot, removed it as soon as you can. Get a sterile tweezers or a needle and dig, dig, dig until you remove a large part of you skin ensuring the shard is out. Soak it with hot water and salt for 20 min everyday until you don’t feel anything at all. What you don’t want is to 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 and the more chances of affecting a nerve. Don’t start waking until you remove it. This is a mistake I did; walking is like a perfect mechanism to make the glass traval 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. 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. You can buy Ichthammol ointment at Amazon.com – buy it from my link bellow in this page!
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 but the glass still in
If you can’t remove the glass and painful scar tissue have formed, you can 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. There is also a technique to apply the injection, that I found out by trial and error.
This 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. So you need to locate it 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 area and make a mark with a hypodermic pen. Then you instruct your doctor to apply the injection from the bottom up, directly into the scar tissue. Some doctors might want to approach the spot from the side 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 it’s not over yet…
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 bought an foot soaker basin with vibration at my local pharmacy. I soak in hot water for 20 minutes everyday and than massage it with arnica oil. This oil have great nerve medicinal properties and it is also used for diabetic nerve pain. I massage the area vigorously for a few minutes and every time I do it gets better.
So 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.
Broken glass does not travel to other areas
One big fear people have is that broken glass piece can 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 process.
The real danger is that if the glass is very 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 the 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
Image credit: Charli Lopez