Chemical burns to the eye are somewhat common among young children. A report found that tens of thousands of people in the US go to the emergency room to get treatment for chemical burns. These eye injuries are true ocular emergencies that require immediate assessment and prompt treatment. The most common causes of chemical burns to the eye happen at home, in the workplace, or as a result of a criminal assault. According to this Dallas personal injury lawyer, injuries resulting from an attack may make you eligible to file a personal injury claim.
If you are about to start working for a company that handles chemicals, you must know this information about chemical burns to the eye so you can take appropriate precautionary measures.
What Are Chemical Eye Burns?
Chemical burns to the eye occur when a powder or liquid chemical makes contact with your eye. It can happen if a chemical accidentally splashes onto your face or if you rub your eyes after handling a chemical.
The severity of the burn depends on the degree of exposure. It can cause momentary redness and irritation, but it can also lead to blindness. Chemicals splashing into the eyes can also cause poisoning because the absorption into the bloodstream occurs more rapidly than through skin contact.
Symptoms of Chemical Eye Burns
Exposure to chemicals may cause blurring of vision. However, if there’s a true loss of vision, it may mean a severe burn. Early signs and symptoms of chemical eye burn include:
- Foreign body sensation
- Blurred vision
Severe chemical eye burns may lead to:
- Corneal ulcer
- Corneal perforation
First Aid for Chemical Eye Burns
Any chemicals that splash on the eyes may cause severe damage.
- To prevent this severe eye damage, rinse the affected eye with fresh or saline water. If there’s an available faucet, wash the eye continuously for about 30 minutes. Allow the water to run continuously on your eyes to remove as many chemicals as possible.
- Remove contact lenses, if you are wearing any.
- Get medical help. Medical staff can immediately identify the offending chemical (acid, alkali, or irritants)
Note that the degree of pain does not indicate the severity of the chemical eye burn and that alkali chemicals don’t cause notable symptoms but can severely damage the eye.
Emergency Room Medical Treatment
- When you get to the emergency room, doctors will likely continue flushing your eye.
- The doctor will test the pH levels of your eye and continue flushing until it returns to normal.
- If there’s pain, doctors will give anesthetic eye drops.
- After washing, the doctor will determine the type of chemical that caused the burn and will do a complete eye exam. The doctor may apply fluorescein to identify the extent of the damage. If the burns are minor, you will receive antibiotic eye drops and pain medications. You may also receive lubricating eye drops to prevent dry eyes.
- If the burn is due to hydrofluoric acid or an alkali burn, you may be asked to stay in the hospital.
Chemical eye burns may require surgical intervention after the initial chemical injury has healed. It may be necessary for the following situations:
- When there is incomplete closure of the eyelid.
- If the eye surface has severe damage, it may require Limbal stem cell replacement.
- A corneal transplant may be necessary for cases in which the cornea becomes opaque or cloudy.
- Chemical eye burns from alkaline substances that result in glaucoma and cataracts.
While accidents do happen, most of them are preventable. If you know you are working with harmful chemicals, always wear necessary protective gear and practice safety at all times.