Burns to the Eye
See a picture of the eye.
Chemical burns can happen if a solid or liquid chemical or chemical fumes get into the eye. Many substances will not cause damage if they are flushed out of the eye quickly. Acids and alkali substances can damage the eye. It may take 24 hours after the burn occurs to determine the seriousness of an eye burn. Chemical fumes and vapors can also irritate the eyes.
Burns to the eyelid or eye can cause eye problems. Blasts of hot air or steam can burn the face and eyes. Bursts of flames or flash fires from stoves or explosives can also burn the face and eyes. If you have burns to your eyelids, see the topic Burns.
Eyes that are not protected by a mask or ultraviolet (UV) filtering sunglasses can be burned by exposure to the high-intensity light of a welder's equipment (torch or arc) or to bright sunlight (especially when the sun is reflecting off snow or water). The eyes also may be injured by other bright lights, such as from tanning booths or sunlamps. It may take up to 24 hours for the extent of the eye injury to be known.
After a burn injury to the eye, it is important to watch for symptoms of an eye infection.
For more information about other types of eye injuries, such as blows to the eye, see the topic Eye Injuries.
Use the Check Your Symptoms section to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Home treatment may relieve your eye symptoms.
- First aid for chemical burns to the eye. Immediately flush the eye with cool water. Quickly diluting the chemical reduces the chance of serious eye damage.
- First aid for heat burns to the eyes or the area around the eyes. Immediately flush the eye with cool water. Fill a sink or dishpan with water. Put your face in the water, then open and close your eyelids to force water to all parts of your eye.
If your eye symptoms are not 100% better after 24 hours of home treatment, an evaluation by a doctor is needed.
Eye injury to a child
Applying first aid measures for an eye injury to a child may be difficult depending on the child's age, size, and ability to cooperate. Having another adult help you treat the child is helpful. Stay calm and talk in a soothing voice. Use slow, gentle movements to help the child remain calm and cooperative. A struggling child may need to be held strongly so that first aid can be started and the seriousness of the eye injury assessed.
|Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:|
Talk to your child’s doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
|Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:|
Symptoms to Watch For During Home Treatment
Use the Check Your Symptoms section to evaluate your symptoms if any of the following occur during home treatment:
- Decreased, double, or blurred vision doesn't clear with blinking.
- Pain increases or continues.
- Signs of infection develop.
- Symptoms become more severe or more frequent.
The following tips may help prevent burns to the eye:
- Wear safety glasses, goggles, or face shields when working with power tools or chemicals or doing any activity that might cause an object or substance to get into your eyes. If you work with hazardous chemicals that could splash into your eyes, be aware of the proper procedure for flushing chemicals out and the location of the nearest shower or sink.
- Wear a mask or goggles designed for welding if you are welding or near someone else who is welding.
- Injuries from ultraviolet (UV) light can be prevented by wearing sunglasses that block ultraviolet (UV) rays and by wearing broad-brimmed hats. Be aware that the eye can be injured from glare during boating, sunbathing, and skiing. Use eye protection while under tanning lamps or when using tanning booths. Laser pointers have not been shown to cause eye injury.
Preparing For Your Appointment
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
If you have had a burn to the eye that affects your vision, have someone else drive you to your doctor. If you are wearing contact lenses, remove them, and take your glasses with you.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
- What are your main symptoms? How long have you had your symptoms?
- What type of substance was splashed into your eye? How and when did it happen? Take the container with you.
- How and when did the heat (thermal) burn occur?
- How and when did the ultraviolet (UV) light burn occur?
- Do you wear glasses or contacts? Did you remove your contact lens? Has the injury affected your vision (as corrected with glasses or contacts)?
- What kind of vision changes are you having (not related to removing your eye glasses or contact lenses)?
- What home treatment have you tried? Did you flush your eye with water for 30 minutes as a first aid measure? Did it help?
- What prescription and nonprescription medicines have you used? Did they help?
- Do you have any health risks?
|Author||Jan Nissl, RN, BS|
|Editor||Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA|
|Associate Editor||Tracy Landauer|
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine|
|Primary Medical Reviewer||William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Steven L. Schneider, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, FRCSC - Ophthalmology|
|Last Updated||December 6, 2009|
Last Updated: December 6, 2009