Exposure of the cornea and conjunctiva to acidic material can be a devastating ocular injury. The proteins in the cornea tend to act as a good buffer to acidic compounds, preventing penetration deeper into the eye, so acidic injuries are generally not as damaging as those from alkaline substances. Patients with chemical injuries to the eye will often be in severe pain and not be able to open the affected eye(s). There will also be excessive tearing in the affected eye.
Chemical injuries are most commonly seen in young men (often not using adequate eye protection). It is essential to initiate treatment for acidic chemical injuries as soon as possible to minimize damage to the cornea and conjunctiva.