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Chemical injuries to the eye


When you take into consideration the number of chemicals found in everyday products, chemical injuries to the eye are common and unsurprising.

Most of these injuries are irritations caused by shampoo, perfume and deodorant aerosols, insect repellents, and most household liquids and they usually are minor problems.{{more}} Some, however, can be incapacitating and can cause serious damage.

People who work in industrial locations, laboratories or combative environments are high-risk candidates for eye injuries by alkaline and acidic solutions to be found in solid, liquid or vapour forms.

There are four factors that determine the severity of eye injury:

1. The type of chemical that touches the eye

2. The amount of the chemical having direct contact with the eye

3. The PH count of the product (normal PH is +/-7)

4. The time the product is in contact with the eye

Because it seeps into eye tissue so quickly, alkaline matter does the most damage. These substances are found in lye soap, cement, mortar, plaster, bleach, refrigerants, oven and drain cleaners, and also in hair relaxers.

Acidic matter is found in high-concentrate vinegar, rust remover, battery acid, refrigerants, gasoline, silicone, and bleach, household, industrial and pool cleaners. Acidic substances are dangerous and can cause as much damage as alkaline matter if they have contact with the eye for too long.

Chemical eye injuries can cause acute swelling, glaucoma, cataracts, corneal ulceration/perforation/scarring, detachment of the retina, conjunctivitis, eyelid defects and even blindness.

All eye burns should be treated as an emergency. The first thing to do is to wash out the eye with cool tap water and to phone the emergency services. Never use any other solutions, such as eye drops; never put a patch over the eye. Keep irrigating the eye until the medics arrive; they will take over operations until a doctor can begin a treatment, which will include pain, inflammation and infection medications. If the injury is caused by a solid agent, this may have to be removed surgically.

Please do remember that the first and best solution for reducing lasting eye-damage is the abundant use of water to wash out the chemical immediately after the accident.

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