Acid attacks and eye injuries

As a specialist eye surgeon, I am seeing a growing number of patients who are the victims of acid attacks which can cause life-changing injuries such as facial disfigurement and sight damage.

It doesn’t surprise me that the number of people requiring specialist treatment for acid attacks has doubled over the last three years, according to NHS England. Shockingly, corrosive substances are increasingly used as weapons in the UK, especially in London, which had more than 450 attacks in 2016.

Shockingly, corrosive substances are increasingly used as weapons in the UK, especially in London, which had more than 450 attacks in 2016.

Not long ago, our only experience of treating injuries from these types of attacks would have been from patients travelling from countries in Africa and the Asian subcontinent. Now, it’s a home grown problem too.

In my opinion, there is now a need for specialist training to ensure that doctors across the UK are sufficiently able to deal with the medical aftermath of such incidents and the far-reaching health implications.

For example, people who have had acid thrown in their eyes may still be able to retain limited vision or even full vision if they managed to close their eyes in time and washed the area profusely with water immediately after the attack. Fortunately, more people are now aware that copious rinsing with water is essential first aid for acid burn victims. But acid burn damage to the eyelids can cause the upper eyelid to withdraw upwards and the lower eyelid to withdraw downwards. This can lead to inability to close the eyes and protect the delicate sclera from the outside environment.

But acid burn damage to the eyelids can cause the upper eyelid to withdraw upwards and the lower eyelid to withdraw downwards. This can lead to inability to close the eyes and protect the delicate sclera from the outside environment.

Only skilful techniques to repair the eyelid skin will allow a victim to once more be able to close their eyes again. These techniques need to be taught in a more formal way to doctors who are specialists in this area.

Daniel Ezra

Daniel Ezra

Consultant ophthalmic and oculoplastic surgeon at Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in London
Daniel Ezra

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