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Chemical Eye Burns


  • Surgical measures may be necessary after severe chemical injuries when the initial injury has healed.

    • Chemical injuries may necessitate surgery to the eyelids to restore good eyelid closure to protect the eye.

    • If the surface of the eye is severely damaged, a specialized set of cells called Limbal stem cells may be damaged and require replacement to prevent surface scarring.

    • If the cornea becomes opaque (or cloudy) following a chemical injury, a corneal transplant may be required.

    • Chemical injuries, especially from alkaline substances, can also cause cataracts and glaucoma, which may also require later surgical intervention.

Next Steps


If you are treated for a chemical burn to the eye in a hospital's emergency department, you should see an ophthalmologist within 24 hours. The ophthalmologist determines your continuing care.


Safety officials estimate that up to 90% of chemical eye injuries can be avoided.

  • Always wear safety glasses when working with hazardous materials, both at work and at home.

  • Children sustain chemical burns most often when they are unsupervised. Keep all hazardous home products away from children.


Recovery depends on the type and extent of injury.

  • Chemical irritants seldom cause permanent damage.

  • Recovery from acid and alkali burns depends on the depth of the injury.

The 4 grades of burns are

  • Grade 1: You should recover fully.

  • Grade 2: You may have some scarring, but your vision should recover.
  • Grade 3: Your vision will usually be impaired to some degree.

  • Grade 4: Damage to your vision likely will be severe.


Questions to Ask the Doctor

  1. Is there any sign of significant damage to the eye?

  2. What medications am I to take, and for how long?

  3. When am I supposed to visit the doctor for follow up again?

  4. Is there any chance of permanent vision loss?

For More Information

American Academy of Ophthalmology
655 Beach Street
Box 7424
San Francisco, CA 94120
(415) 561-8500


WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed by Alan Kozarsky, MD on April 25, 2014

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