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Chemical Eye Burns (cont.)

Medical Treatment in the Emergency Room

  • Immediate therapy: Doctors likely will continue washing your eye. No standard exists for the amount of washing required. Usually, doctors use at least one liter of fluid.
    • Depending on the type of chemical involved, the doctor may test the pH of your eye and continue washing until the pH returns to normal.
    • You may receive topical anesthetic eyedrops to numb your eye to make washing less painful.
    • Doctors will wipe or irrigate away any solid foreign material in your eye.
  • Exams and Tests: The doctor determines what chemical caused the burn and completes a thorough eye examination.
    • You are given an eye examination using an eye chart to determine how well you can see.
    • Structures surrounding the eye are checked.
    • Eyelids, in particular, require careful assessment. The doctor turns them inside out to look for foreign material.
    • The doctor may stain your eye with a dye called fluorescein to help determine the extent of damage.
  • If the burns are minor, you are usually sent home with antibiotic eyedrops and oral pain medications. Occasionally, you may be given dilating eyedrops to help with comfort, and your injured eye may be covered with an eye patch.
  • Any significant burn, especially an alkali or hydrofluoric acid burn, may require admission to the hospital.
  • For any minor injuries, an ophthalmologist should evaluate you within 24-48 hours of your injury. For any moderate to significant injury, an ophthalmologist should evaluate you before you leave the Emergency Room.
  • Your tetanus immunization status may be determined and updated.

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