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Chemical Injuries to the Eye

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Chemical Injuries to the eye are quite common if you think about it. Almost any chemical can cause eye irritation. Most of these irritations are inconsequential . They come from the use of shampoos, perfume sprays, defense sprays and a lot of household liquids. There are some, however, that can be debilitating and cause serious ocular damage.{{more}} They are alkaline and acidic solutions and can come in vapor, solid or liquid forms.

Industrial environments, Laboratories, and Combative environments are conducive for such accidents.

The severity of the injury depends on 4 factors

1) The type of chemical entering the eye

2) The volume of direct exposure to the eye

3) The PH of the solution ( Normal Ph is around 7)

4) The Duration of exposure in the eye.

Alkaline substances cause the most damage as they penetrate tissues very rapidly. Examples of Alkaline substances are Lye soaps, hair relaxers, cement, fertilizers, refrigerants ,mortar, plaster, bleaches, oven and drain cleaners.

Acidic substances are dangerous but not as harmful as alkali. However, if exposed to the eye for long , they can be just as harmful. Examples of Acidic substances are high vinegar concentrations, rust removers , refrigerants, gasoline, pool cleaners, silicone, bleach, battery acid, household and industrial cleaners.

Some complications of chemical eye injuries are vision loss, severe inflammation, glaucoma, cataracts, corneal ulceration/perforation, corneal scarring, retinal detachment, conjunctival and eyelid defects

Treatments for these 2 types of chemical burns are similar. All burns should be treated as an emergency and the first line of treatment is to irrigate the eye with water, preferably tap water.

Do not try to use a neutralizing solution as this may make it worse. Irrigate the eye with at least 1-2 liters of water. Do not patch the eye, and make haste to see your doctor who will then continue irrigation and institute the proper treatment.

Treatment may also include removal of the offensive agent, if solid, pain control, inflammation control, infection prevention and the promotion of ocular surface healing.

Please note that the best outcome for the eye depends on the immediate and copious irrigation of the eye with water at the time of injury.

Dr Kenneth Onu is a resident Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Beachmont Eye Institute/Eyes R Us Send questions to: [email protected]

Tel: 784 456-1210

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