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Chemical Burns to the Eye: Care Instructions

Parts of the eye


Chemical burns to your eye can cause keratitis. Keratitis is an inflammation of the cornea. The cornea is the outer, clear layer that covers the coloured part of your eye and pupil. If you get chemicals in your eyes, it may take as long as 24 hours to know if there is damage. Your eyes will be flushed with water to reduce the chance of serious damage.

Your doctor may have put a few drops of medicine into your eye to help reduce swelling and to prevent infection and scarring. Your doctor may also have given you an eye patch or a special type of contact lens to wear while your eye heals.

The doctor probably used medicine to numb your eye. When it wears off in 30 to 60 minutes, your eye pain may come back. Your doctor may give you medicine to help relieve the pain.

You may need to follow up with an eye doctor for another exam or more treatment.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor gave you ointment or eyedrops, use them as directed. Use the medicine for as long as your doctor tells you to, even if your eye starts to look and feel better. Wash your hands before using the medicine.
  • To put in eyedrops or ointment:
    • Tilt your head back, and pull your lower eyelid down with one finger.
    • Drop or squirt the medicine inside the lower lid.
    • Close your eye for 30 to 60 seconds to let the drops or ointment move around.
    • Do not touch the ointment or dropper tip to your eyelashes or any other surface.
  • Be sure to use only the eyedrops your doctor prescribed. Do not use over-the-counter eyedrops because they may make your symptoms worse.
  • Do not use a contact lens in your hurt eye until your doctor says you can.
  • Do not wear eye makeup until your eye heals.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • For the first 24 to 48 hours, limit reading and other tasks that require a lot of eye movement.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have a sudden loss of vision.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse eye pain.
  • Your vision gets worse.
  • Your eyes have new or worse sensitivity to light.
  • You have symptoms of an eye infection, such as:
    • Pus or thick discharge coming from the eye.
    • Redness or swelling around the eye.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your eyes are not getting better or they get worse.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.