Chemical Eye Injuries


Chemical eye injuries often occur, and can range from a mild eye injury to loss of vision or even loss of the eye. Among the substances that can cause chemical eye injuries, they are disinfectants, solvents, cosmetics, diluent solutions, chemical products for cleaning ovens, ammonia and bleach solutions found at home and at work.

A chemical eye injury is an emergency. Damage can occur within one to five minutes. Most of the time, however, chemicals that come in contact with the eye cause only surface damage and no loss of vision. Caustic (alkaline) chemicals cause the worst damage. These include ammonia, drain cleaners, automatic dish washing detergents and oven cleaners.

Symptoms of Chemical Eye Injuries

Symptoms of chemical eye injuries include:

• A burning sensation in the eye after exposure to a chemical

• Excessive tearing

• Pain

• Redness on the eye and eyelid surface

The duration of symptoms and the damage to the eyes depends on the type and amount of chemical that injures the eye.

Preventing Chemical Eye Injuries

The best way to prevent chemical eye injuries is wearing protective glasses.It is most important to keep in mind that if a chemical substances plashes into your eyes, rinse your affected eye with fresh water promptly and thoroughly.

Treatment of Chemical Eye Injuries

The most important treatment for chemical eye injuries is to rinse your eyes with plenty of fresh water as soon as possible. If a chemical substance splashes into your eye, immediately rinse your eyes with plenty of fresh water before being referred to an ophthalmologist. It is best to use cold tap water and rinse your effected eye for at least 10 minutes continuously, although it is recommended to continue to rinse until you are referred to an ophthalmologist. To rinse, hold the eyelids of your effected eye or eyes open with two fingers and hold your head under a gently running faucet so that your affected eye is located below and the healthy eye is located above. Then direct the stream of water on the bridge of your nose over your affected eye. so you don't expose the other eye to the chemical you are rinsing out. If both eyes are affected, you can either alternate sides or allow the water to flow over both eyes at once.

If you can not put your eye under a faucet, have someone help you. your helper can pour water from a cup across your eye while you hold the eyelids open. If water is not available, you can use milk. 

If you are wearing contact lenses, do not try to remove them before washing your eye. If the lens is still in your eye after several minutes of flushing with water, you should try to remove it.

Do not rub your eyes, even after flushing them with water.

After being referred to an ophthalmologist, he/she will usually start irrigating the eye using a saline solution. The ophthalmologist probably will apply anesthetic drops to the eye before rinsing it. The eyelids may be held open with a gentle instrument. After a complete rinse, your ophthalmologist will test the pH (acidity) of the eye. He or she will continue rinsing the eye until the pH is normal or near normal. In some cases, particularly after severe alkali burns, rinsing may need to be continued for as long as 24 hours.

When the rinse is complete, the ophthalmologist will examine the eye and remove any foreign particles. Also intraocular pressure will be measured. Antibiotic ointment will also prescribed for the prevention of infection and then the eye will be bandaged and closed. If the injury is serious, you may have to be hospitalized so that health care professionals can monitor the pressure in your eye and the healing of the cornea.


The outlook for recovery from chemical injury varies depending on the nature and extent of the exposure. Most people recover completely. However, possible complications include glaucoma, damage to the cornea and dry eye syndrome. In the most severe cases, chemical exposure can lead to blindness or loss of the eye.