Learn more about treating eye burns

You’ve seen the warnings on product labels — avoid getting this chemical in your eyes.

Corneal burn, or eye burn, can result when certain chemicals come into contact with your eyes. This painful injury can cause permanent eye and vision damage, but fortunately, you can take several steps to keep yourself safe. Learn more about treating eye burns.

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Identifying and Preventing Eye Burns

Your eyelid serves an important purpose — to protect your eyes from exposure to substances that could cause injury. That’s why your eyes reflexively close when someone comes too close.

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Corneal burns often result when liquid or another substance splashes into the eye. Though hot water can burn your eye, common culprits of eye damage tend to involve chemicals.

Strong alkali chemicals are particularly dangerous, especially caustic substances such as lye (a chemical found in many drain cleaners). These substances can cause serious eye injuries, including scarring, perforation of eye tissue, and in extreme cases, blindness. In addition, corneal burns can be excruciating.

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What to Do If You Believe You Burned Your Eye

You should always wear protective goggles when using chemicals, particularly when they are in liquid form — even if you’re just cleaning your bathroom.

If you accidentally get something in your eye, immediately flush your eye and seek medical care.

  1. Seek help, whether that means calling an ambulance or asking someone to drive you to the closest emergency room.
  2. Meanwhile, with your injured eye open, irrigate the area with water. You may have to have a friend hold your eye open, because you may want to keep it closed.
  3. Continue to flush your eye for 30 to 120 minutes. Once you arrive at the emergency department, a health professional can help you with this.
  4. The doctor or nurse may treat you with anesthetic eye drops to help with initial pain. After your eye has been fully flushed, a health practitioner will examine your eye and may prescribe an antibiotic ointment, steroid eye drops, or both.

You may also need to see an ophthalmologist to treat severe burns, which can lead to permanent eye damage. In most cases, however, your eye will return to normal within a few days as long as you receive prompt medical treatment.

About Trauma & Emergency Medicine

Emergencies can happen in the blink of an eye or in a heartbeat. And when they do, minutes matter. UPMC’s Emergency Medicine and Trauma Care services are ready to provide world-class care, no matter how serious your emergency. All our Emergency Departments have a full-time staff of emergency specialists at the ready 24 hours a day. We use advanced technology to diagnose and treat your condition and coordinate with your doctor to provide the best care possible. We also have specialized trauma care at several of our hospitals. If you or a loved one is experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or visit the nearest Emergency Department.