Chemical eye burns, often resulting from exposure to various substances, demand swift action to mitigate potential damage. The degree of severity is dictated by the nature of the chemical, its pH, the exposure quantity, and the duration. Commonly, these chemicals are categorised as acids, alkaline substances, or irritants.

What Causes Chemical Eye Burns?

  1. Occupational Hazards: Instances include chemical splashes from fabric dyeing procedures, car battery operations, or accidents involving floor cleaning solutions, such as during bathroom clean-ups.
  2. Accidental Mishaps: This encompasses incidents like explosions from carbon dioxide tanks while extinguishing fires, causing eye injuries due to carbon dioxide powder.
  3. Physical Assaults: Unfortunately, malicious acts where acid is hurled onto the face can lead to severe eye injuries.

Understanding the Severity: Acid vs Alkaline

While both can be detrimental, alkaline substances pose a greater risk. They wreak havoc on cell membranes and penetrate the eyes rapidly. Common alkaline culprits include ammonia, caustic soda, lime, and potassium hydroxide – many of which are household cleaning agents. On the acidic front, sulfuric acid from car batteries is a frequent offender, with hydrofluoric acid from the glass-crafting sector being exceptionally perilous.

Recognising Symptoms of Chemical Eye Burns

Affected eyes may exhibit:

  • Redness, swelling, and a burning sensation.
  • Irritation, excessive tearing, and difficulty in opening eyes.
  • Blurred vision in case of cornea involvement, with tests revealing diminished sight. In severe situations, the cornea may turn white, with inflamed, detached, and reddened eye membranes.
  • Extreme damage might result in complications like eyelid deformities, eyelashes curling inwards or outwards, acute dryness, attachment of the eye membrane to the eyelid inhibiting movement, a cloudy cornea, and corneal thinning that risks rupture.
  • Severe cases might escalate to conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, or even permanent blindness.

Immediate Action if Chemicals Reach the Eyes

  1. Seek the nearest clean water source for an eye wash. If unavailable, tap water suffices. Aim for a rinse duration of 20-30 minutes, contingent on the chemical involved.
  2. Prioritising immediate, abundant flushing with running water is paramount. This action dilutes the chemical concentration, significantly curbing potential eye damage.