Doctor's Notes on Chemical Burns
A chemical burn is damage or injury to tissue caused by direct contact with a toxic chemical or its fumes. Although many different chemicals can cause injury, chemical burns are most commonly caused by strong acids or strong basis. Examples of chemicals that can cause chemical burns in the home include pool chlorinators, bleach, metal cleaners, and drain or toilet cleaners.
Signs and symptoms of a chemical burn are related to the extent and site of the burn on the body and the substance causing the burn. Typical symptoms are irritation, redness, and burning pain at the injured site. Blisters may form on the skin. Other associated signs and symptoms depend on the site of the burn and can include vision loss if the eye is involved, numbness, and the presence of black, necrotic (dead) skin.
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BurnsHeat, chemical, or electrical injury to the skin, eyes, nerves, blood vessels, and internal organs can cause burns. First-degree burn symptoms include red skin and local pain (sunburn). Second-degree burns can cause blisters and swelling. Third-degree burns are a medical emergency, and cause white or black charred skin.
Chemical Eye BurnsChemical burns to the eye or eyelid make up roughly 10% of all eye injuries. Depending on the type of chemical and how long the eye was exposed to it, chemical eye burns can cause complete loss of sight and can be permanently debilitating.
Corneal UlcerThe cornea, which is the bulbous, transparent structure that encloses the pupil and iris of the eye, can sometimes develop sores called corneal ulcers. Often, a corneal ulcer may be caused by bacteria, in which case, antibiotics are used for treatment. Eyedrops and oral medications may be prescribed to ease pain.
Thermal Burns (Heat or Fire)Thermal burns are burns caused by heat, rather than chemicals or other causes. They can range from mild, like a sunburn, to severe. The burn severity is determined by the size of the area of the body with burns and how many layers of skin are involved.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.