Eye Injuries

Chemical Eye Burns

Chemical Eye Burns

What are Chemical Eye Burns?

Chemical eye burns occur when the eye comes into contact with a solid, liquid, or vaporous chemical. The severity of the burn depends on the chemical, as well as the amount that comes into contact with the eye. Fortunately, the vast majority of burns are treatable and cause only temporary discomfort.

Chemical eye burns fall into three categories based upon acidic or alkaline level, measured in pH. The pH scale ranges from 0-14 and indicates how acidic or basic (alkaline) a substance is. A pH of 7 is neutral; the pH of healthy tears is 7.5. A pH of less than 7 is acidic while a pH greater than 7 is basic.

Types of eye burns

The three categories of chemical eye burns are:

  • Alkali burns – these burns involve high pH chemicals, and thus are the most dangerous. They are powerful enough to penetrate the eye, and cause damage to its vital inner components. In the worst cases, alkali burns can lead to conditions like cataracts and glaucoma and may cause vision loss or blindness.
  • Acid burns – lower pH burns that are less serious than alkali burns, but still dangerous. These burns are unable to penetrate the eye, but still may cause significant damage to the cornea, with the potential to cause vision loss.
  • Irritations – these burns have a neutral pH.


Chemical burns can occur at any time in various circumstances. Most commonly, they occur in industrial workplaces where chemicals are present, and at home with common household cleaning products.


Vision loss indicates a severe chemical eye burn. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Eye redness
  • Eye irritation
  • Eye pain
  • Swelling of the eye
  • Blurred vision
  • Inability to open the eye
  • Feeling of foreign objects in the eye


No matter what the situation is, the most important thing to do if you experience an eye burn is to get the chemical out of the eyes and contact your eye care practitioner. A special chemical eye wash station is the best way to do this; however, if not available tap water is a suitable alternative.

  • For any chemical eye burns you should see a GP or eye care practitioner for further advice.
  • In the case of a severe burn, call Emergency Services 000 and flush your eyes out until help arrives

These symptoms can also be a sign of other eye conditions. If you have any of the symptoms, please check with your eye care practitioner.