Chemical Eye Burns
Chemical Eye Burn Symptoms
A true loss of vision signifies a very serious burn. Glaucoma, or an increase of the pressure inside the eye, can occur, but may be delayed by hours to days.
Early signs and symptoms of a chemical eye burn are:
- Inability to keep the eye open
- Sensation of something in the eye
- Swelling of the eyelids
- Blurred vision
Chemical Eye Burn Treatment
Self-Care at Home
For all chemical injuries, the first thing you should do is immediately irrigate the eye thoroughly. Ideally, specific eye irrigating solutions should be used for this, but if none are available regular tap water will do just fine.
- Begin washing your eye before taking any other action and continue for at least 10 minutes. The longer a chemical is in your eye, the more damage will occur. Diluting the substance and washing away any particles that may have been in the chemical are extremely important.
- Ideally, in a work setting, you would be placed in an emergency eyewash or shower station and your eye washed with sterile isotonic saline solution. If sterile saline is not available, use cold tap water.
- If you are at home and do not have special eye wash, step into the shower with your clothes on to wash out your eye.
- Even though it may be uncomfortable, open your eyelids as wide as possible as you rinse them out.
- If an alkali (e.g., drain cleaner) or hydrofluoric acid burn has occurred, continue washing until a doctor arrives or you have been taken to a hospital's emergency department.
It is much better to irrigate for a longer time than not long enough – this is by far the most important thing you can do to minimize the damage done by a dangerous chemical.
When to Seek Medical Care
The next best step if possible is to find out what type of chemical you have been exposed to. You can look on the product label or call your regional Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222 to find out more information about a specific chemical.
If the chemical is an irritant (with a neutral pH) and discomfort and blurred vision are only minor or nonexistent, then you may monitor your condition at home with a call to your ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in eye care and surgery). Make sure the irritation does not worsen. If it does, call your ophthalmologist to arrange an appointment for that day or go to the emergency room of the nearest hospital.
If you have any question about the danger of a chemical, if you do not know what it is, or if you have significant symptoms, go immediately to the nearest hospital's emergency room.