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Chemical Eye Burn

What is a Chemical Eye Burn?

A chemical eye burn is a injury to the eye caused by an acid, alkali substance or an irritant.

Chemical eye burns usually occur when a chemical is splashed in your eye. However, chemical eye burns can also occur if the eye is exposed to concentrated fumes and aerosols.

The severity of a burn depends on what substance caused it and how long the substance had contact with the eye. In most cases, damage is limited to the front of the eye.

Symptoms of a Chemical Eye Burn

Some common symptoms of a chemical eye burn are:

  • Eye pain
  • Eye redness
  • Sensitive to light
  • Eye irritation
  • Tearing
  • Inability to keep the eye open
  • Sensation of something in the eye
  • Swelling of the eyelids

Types of Chemical Eye Burns

There are three main types of chemical burns to the eye:

  1. Alkali burns
    • Alkalis are chemicals that have a high pH.
    • Alkali burns are the most dangerous type of chemical burn. Alkalis penetrate the surface of the eye and can cause severe injury.
    • Common alkali substances contain the hydroxides of ammonia, potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium.
    • Substances that contain alkali substances include lye, drain cleaner, metal polishes, oven cleaners, cement, lime, and ammonia.
  2. Acid burns
    • Acid burns are caused by chemicals with a low pH
    • Acid burns tend to be less severe than alkali burns.
    • Acids usually damage the very front of the eye.
    • Common acids causing eye burns include sulfuric acid, sulfurous acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, acetic acid, chromic acid, muriatic acid, and hydrofluoric acid.
    • One of the most common acidic burns of the eye is caused by an automobile battery explosion.
  3. Irritants
    • Irritants are substances that have a neutral pH.
    • An irritant often causes significant pain but does not cause damage to the eye.
    • Pepper spray is an irritant.

Can a Chemical Eye Burn be Treated?

Yes. Chemical burns to the eye are a medical emergency. Wash your eye with water immediately. The longer a chemical is in your eye, the more damage will occur. Wash your eye for at least 10 minutes.

After washing your eye, contact a doctor immediately. The doctor will be check the damage of your eye and decide what type of treatment to give you. Depending on the severity of the injury, your eye may be bandaged or treated with an antibiotic.

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