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Diseases & Conditions : Common Childhood Injuries and Poisonings

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Chemical Burns of the Eye

What are chemical burns?

Chemical burns occur when a child gets any type of chemical in his/her eye. This is a medical emergency, and the child should receive immediate medical care. Chemical burns can result in a loss of vision and even a loss of the eye itself, if not treated promptly and accurately. Household cleaning agents are a common cause of this type of injury.

What are the symptoms of chemical burns?

The following are the most common symptoms of chemical burns in the eye. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Severe pain in the eye

  • Burning of the eye

  • Tearing of that eye

The symptoms of chemical burns of the eye(s) may resemble other eye conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How is a chemical burn diagnosed?

Diagnosis is usually made after a complete medical history and physical examination of your child's eye. Local anesthetic drops in the eye may be used in order to examine the child.

Treatment for chemical burns

Specific treatment for chemical burns in the eye will be determined by your child's physician based on:

  • Your child's age, health, and medical history

  • Extent of the injury

  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Most children with a chemical burn will be treated in the emergency room. An ophthalmologist (physician who specializes in comprehensive eye care) will usually be involved in the care of the child. Treatment includes immediate washing of the eye with saline for about 20 to 30 minutes. Local anesthetic drops may be placed in the eye prior to the washing to help decrease the pain. The eye is usually held open with a special instrument to assure the saline gets into the eye. Some children may need to be sedated under general anesthesia in order to perform the procedure.