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Emergency Eye Care for Chemical Burns

Chemical exposure to the eye often occurs from splashes to the face or rubbing the eye with fingertips contaminated with a toxic substance.


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Emergency Eye Care in Georgetown, Ontario

A chemical eye burn occurs when the eye is exposed to a harmful liquid, solid, or gas chemical. The symptoms and long-term damage range from mild to severe, depending on the type of chemical and degree of exposure, most commonly from splashes to the face or rubbing the eyes with contaminated fingers or clothes.

There are three types of chemical burns that can affect the eye, each varying in severity but similar in treatment. They are: alkali, acid, and irritants.

If you are faced with a chemical burn of the eye, refer to the first-aid information below and call Dr. Ben Giddens for immediate treatment.

Types of Chemical Burns

There are three types of chemical burns that can harm the eye, each categorized by pH scale.

  • Alkali burns are caused by basic chemicals with a high pH (between 7-14). These burns are the most dangerous, as they often don't result in pain or irritation. Alkali substances can penetrate the cornea and severely damage both the internal and external structures of the eye, such as the cornea and lens.
    Alkali chemicals include ammonia, lye, lime, and potassium hydroxide, all of which are commonly found in household cleaning products, fertilizers, or plaster.
  • Acid burns, caused by substances with a low pH (below 7), are less damaging to the eyes than alkali chemicals. Although acid burns can harm the cornea (outer surface of the eye) or even cause blindness, acids typically don’t affect the eye’s internal structure. Common examples of acids that can cause eye burns include sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, acetic acid, nitric acid, and hydrofluoric acid. The most common household acidic items that can harm the eyes include vinegar and nail polish remover.
  • Irritants are less damaging to the eyes than alkali or acid burns due to their neutral pH (around 7). Irritants, such as household detergents, tend to generate more discomfort than actual harm.
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Chemical Eye Burn Symptoms

Though the symptoms and severity of a chemical eye burn depend on the substance, one will likely experience any of the following:

  • Burning
  • Pain
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Blurred vision
  • Redness
  • Stinging
  • Tearing
  • Inability to keep eye open

At-home care for chemical eye burns can significantly reduce the long-term ocular damage and preserve vision.

First Aid Suggestions

The first and most important step in caring for chemical exposure to the eye is to thoroughly flush the affected eye with clean water for at least 10 minutes. If you wear contact lenses, remove them as soon as possible.

Keep the eye wide open throughout the process to allow the water to completely irrigate the eye. Ideally, one should flush the eye with a specific saline irrigating solution, though clean tap water will do.

Hold your face under a continuous stream of water, whether over a sink or in the shower (even fully clothed), allowing the eye to flush.

Once done, seek immediate medical attention and call us for further treatment.

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We Treat Chemical Eye Burns and Other Emergencies

We will evaluate and offer the correct treatment to prevent long-term damage and preserve ocular health.

Our experienced staff is here to offer personalized attention and care to each patient – something that most urgent care facilities can’t provide. Furthermore, aside from treating the injury, we also provide prescriptions for various medications to help manage pain and promote recovery.

Remember: early treatment leads to a better outcome. So for any eye emergency you may have, don't delay in calling Giddens Optometry in Georgetown.


a3ef93d0 34de 453f b5f4 5ffd895a5f85 (1)A Letter from Dr. Ben Giddens

Hello friends, I have retired!

I had 37 years of good fun in Georgetown and loved the gift of meeting so many warm and friendly people! I am very sorry that I didn’t have the time to chat with everyone about my exact plans, and felt guilty over that at times. It was not an easy task. If anyone wants, or needs to contact me, please send an email to my office and I will reply.

I am 66 years old and still feel like I am in good health. My wife died of cancer in 2021 but I have good friends and family and a fun life. I recently moved back to Toronto which is where I grew up as a teenager. I have an active outdoor life and have many ski trips and travel plans in front of me. Lots of interests and activities to explore with an overriding sense that I am a lucky guy. I am also a grandfather now.

I have always tried to employ staff and optometrists who have a heart. I think that is where the office is at today and I hope it continues. Everyone knows their work, and the heart matters.