Chemical burns in the eye are more common than most people know. A person can suffer an eye chemical burn anytime s/he uses a chemical without using goggles or face protection. Anyone who sustains a chemical burn in the eye needs to seek immediate medical attention.
What types of chemicals can burn the eyes?
Most people use dangerous chemicals each day and do not realize the risk they are taking. For example, the following household products and cleaners contain hazardous chemicals that can cause severe burns if they splash in the eye:
- Drain clog remover (one of the most dangerous household products, contains lye)
- Toilet bowl cleaner (contains bleach, hydrochloric acid, hydroiodic acids)
- Window cleaner (contains ammonia)
- Battery acid
- Brake fluid
- Aerosol sprays (e.g., hairsprays, perfumes, etc.)
- Rust remover
- Paint thinners
- Denture cleaners
Students and employees can also sustain eye burns from using chemicals at school or work.
What should I do if I or someone near me sustains an eye chemical burn?
If you or someone nearby you has gotten chemicals in the eyes, call immediately for emergency medical treatment. While waiting for the professional emergency medical providers to arrive, flush the eyes constantly with water or saline. Hold the person’s eyes open if s/he is unable to do so.
It is very important that the eyes stay open. When the eyes are irritated or in pain, the natural reflex is to close the eyes. This can cause more harm to the eyes, as it holds the burning chemicals against the surface of the eyes.
If the burn resulted from a strong acid (e.g., toilet bowl cleaner, rust remover, etc.) or alkali (e.g., bleach, metal polish, oven cleaner, drain cleaner), irrigate the eyes for at least 30 minutes to two hours.
Note: Alkali chemical eye burns are more severe than acid burns. If an alkali such as drain cleaner splashed in your eye, continue irrigating your eye until medical professionals tell you to stop.
What will the doctors do?
When emergency medical help arrives, they will continue flushing the eyes with water, or they will flush the eyes with saline (i.e., salt water). They will also remove any foreign material from your eye.
Once the doctor is confident that s/he has washed all traces of the chemical away, s/he will complete an eye exam to determine your vision level.
Depending on the severity of the burn, the doctor may send you home with oral medication or send you to the hospital.
You might need surgery to remove cataracts or control glaucoma, to insert stem cells to prevent scarring, or to replace the cornea. You might also need surgery on your eyelids.
What should I expect during healing and in the long-term?
Chemical burns to the eyes can damage the cornea and iris, leading to scars and blindness. For these reasons, all serious chemical burns to the eyes should receive treatment from a doctor who specializes in the treatment of disorders of the eyes (i.e., an ophthalmologist) within 24 hours of the injury.
Expect to attend frequent follow-up examinations with your ophthalmologist throughout the healing process. You might also need corticosteroid eye drops or pain medication in the short term.
While many people with chemical burns heal quickly, even with the best medical care, sometimes the damage to the eyes from the chemical burns is too great, and the person does not regain sight.
What if someone else was responsible for my burn injury?
A chemical burn in the eye can affect every single part of your life. You will likely have high medical bills from your follow-up appointments. You might have to get another job or retire completely if your burn caused you to lose your sight. You may face social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental anguish, and an overall loss of quality of life.
If your chemical burn resulted from another person or party’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. To discuss your legal options for compensation, call our legal referral specialists today: 844-549-8774.