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Dr. Rick
Dr. Rick, Board Certified MD
Category: Eye
Satisfied Customers: 11305
Experience:  Ophthalmology since 1994 with Retina sub-specialty interest
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I accidentally sprayed a small amount of rubbing alcohol in

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I accidentally sprayed a small amount of rubbing alcohol in one of my eyes. I immediately contacted my ophthalmologist's office, and was told to go to the emergency room. Prior to calling, I bathed the eye with several bottles of natural tears drops.
In the meantime, my husband went to the pharmacy to get me some eye wash solution. The pharmacist suggested that I contact poison control - which I did. They advised me that it's rarely necessary to go to the ER due to rubbing alcohol in the eye; that it generally doesn't damage the eye itself - or affect vision (but if those symptoms are present and persist, to seek treatment). They suggested I stand in the shower and let warm water bathe the eye for about 15 minutes (and that eye wash wasn't necessary).
Anyway, I did both, and I think the eye feels a bit more irritated after using the eyewash. Maybe I over-did the irrigation. It's now approximately two hours after the 'event.' There's still a mild to moderate burning sensation (especially around the lower, inner eye lid), the eye is tearing a bit (I have dry eyes and they frequently tear anyway), and while there is a little redness, the fact that I ran water/drops/eye wash over the eye is probably enough to cause some redness.
Should I be concerned - or does this sound like it's recovering appropriately? When is it time to worry?
Dr. Rick :

Hi. I'm online and happy to answer your question today.

Dr. Rick :

Glad you didn't go the did everything correct at home for much, much,much,much less then the ER would have charged you to do the same thing :o)

Dr. Rick :

Everything you have told me, from getting the rubbing alcohol in your eye, to rinsing with natural tears, saline and flushing in the shower, along with how your eye feels right now makes me believe that everything should be OK.

Dr. Rick :

Are you available to chat?

Dr. Rick :

I guess you have stepped away from your computer. We can switch to Q&A.

Dr. Rick :

And, now, the obligatory word from our sponsors: :o)

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Let me know if there are there any other concerns or issues you would like to discuss on this topic.
You eye may still be a little red and irritated tomorrow morning but by tomorrow evening everything should be back to normal. I do not believe you have anything to worry about at this time.
Have a good evening.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Sorry - I have to run for now (I do have more questions) - but can you tell me if it's normal to feel that something's in the eye? The sensation comes and goes. I should add that my eyes normally alternate between being extremely dry (only when I sleep/wake-up), to normal or tearing during the day. This might make my 'recovery' a bit more difficult to gage.

after what you have been through it is perfectly normal to have the feeling that something is in your eye. Since you already have dry eye problems I would suggest using artificial tears for 4 to 6x/day as well as some nighttime ointments (such as lacrilube or refresh PM) for 2 or 3 nights to sooth your irritated eye.
Let me know if there is anything else you would like to ask me.
Take care and I hope you feel better soon.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Thank you for your responses - and your concern.

My eye is still burning, but I think it's somewhat better than it was. It feels less like there's something in the eye, and it doesn't look particularly red (no more than usual, anyway). Should I irrigate again with saline drops, or just leave it alone?

Although I sometimes use natural tears drops before bed, I primarily use them when I wake up (using them before bed doesn't provide any kind of overnight relief). Anytime my eyes have been closed for any period of time, they become so dry, the lids literally stick to my eyeballs. When it's time to open my eyes (even if it's to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom), I have to drip some eye drops along the lash line to pre-lubricate the eyes before I even attempt to open them (in part to prevent abrasions). Once they open a bit, I continue to add drops until they feel comfortable enough to open fully. My top and bottom eyelashes are often glued together - and my eyes are usually filled with both gooey discharge and/or dried 'gunk' (the kind that can probably scratch my cornea if I'm not careful). I've tried more viscous drops/gels at bedtime, but sometimes they appear to trigger pre-migraine type discomfort - and I don't like the blurry vision they seem to cause. My own ophthalmologist isn't terribly concerned (he's never conducted tests to measure tear production, etc.). I've wondered if perhaps I have Sjogren's Syndrome (since my mouth also gets extremely dry) - although both the dry eyes and dry mouth symptoms are generally a problem only after during/after sleeping (I suspect the dry mouth may be due to mouth breathing). However, my eyes frequently tear excessively during the day (people are always asking me if I'm crying) - and I know that this can also be a symptom of dry eyes).

Should I insist on a tear production test? I know I can also request blood tests that will indicate if Sjogren's might be present ( I gather biopsy is the only way to get a definitive diagnosis) - but shouldn't my eye doctor be a bit more proactive?

I would not insist on the tear production test (shermers) as it really doesn't give all the much information that isn't already obvious on clinical exam and history. Also, while sjogren's is a possibility, I wouldn't rush into a biopsy from what you are telling me as I think your issues may be a combination of dry eyes, allergies and blepharitis.
Although this is not related to your current problem from the alcohol :) It may be helpful for you to some home treatment. Here is some information that you may find helpful:
When it comes to allergies it is almost impossible to pin down the offending agent(s) and, therefore, treatment needs to focus on controlling the symptoms. Dry eyes are very common and can be improved by a stepwise series of therapies. First, the use of natural tears 4-6+ times/day to augment your natural tear production, if this doesn’t work then you can try temporary punctal occlusion of the lower puncta, then, if needed, temporary occlusion of all 4 puncta then, if indicated, surgical ( non-reversible) closure of the puncta. The openings to your tear drainage system are called puncta and you have one opening on each lid, near your nose.
Blepharitis is a condition where glands in the eyelids are not functioning normally. They become plugged and instead of putting out their normal clear, oily secretions, they put out thick, toothpaste like gunk. You may not be able to see this “gunk” yourself, unless it is really bad, but it shows up clearly on slit lamp examination.
The best treatment for this condition daily lid scrubs combined with warm compresses. I like to use baby shampoo for lid scrubs. In the shower, place the shampoo on your index fingers, close your eyes, raise your eyebrows (to stretch the skin on your eyelids) and scrub back and forth along your eyelashes for 3 to 5 minutes. The hot water in the shower helps to soften the plugged oils in the glands while the mechanical scrubbing with your soapy fingers removes the oils.
Baby shampoo lid scrubs will also help to wash away allergens and stimulate tear production, thereby addressing all three of your issues. Remember, this is not an instant fix. While you are waiting for the lid scrubs to have affect you can use over the counter allergy pills such as Travist, dimetapp or Zyrtec.
Should your symptoms get worse, your vision become significantly affected or things just not get better in 3 weeks or so you should have a complete eye examination by your local ophthalmologist to look for other, less common, causes of your symptoms.
If things continue to be a problem you might want to have an examination by a corneal specialist. She might have some insight that your regular ophthalmologist doesn't have concerning your symptoms.
At this point, concerning the alcohol issue, I'd just use some tear drops and, perhaps the bedtime ointment for a couple of nights, and otherwise leave things alone so that they can heal up.
Does this make sense to you?
I am happy to be able to help you today. If you would be so kind, please help me get credit for my efforts in answering your questions and press the ACCEPT button for this encounter. I would also be happy to continue to answer any more questions you have until we have resolved your concern.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Thanks for the info. I see you're a night owl, too!

I'm not sure I agree that my dry eye issue is allergy related - since the problem seems to occur primarily when my eyes have been closed for a while. I suppose the tearing could be an allergy thing, but I suspect it isn't (although I could certainly be wrong). I don't want to take allergy meds. Most of them have side effects I can do without (including dry mouth). Other than post nasal drip and food 'intolerance,' I generally don't seem to suffer much from allergies.

Where does one locate a corneal expert? You made reference to a 'her.' Do you know a good one (you're probably not allowed to name names)? Where are you located? I'm in Chicago. I suppose I can do a Google search...

I know about the 'plug the ducts' option; I don't think I'm ready to go that route just yet (yikes, what a thought). No one had mentioned the possibility of blepharitis. Wouldn't the eyelids also be inflamed and 'sticky' during the day with this condition (rather then just at night)? I can certainly try the lid scrub. As I mentioned, I do get thick, gooey gunk in my eyes (in the morning, it often accumulates in the inner corners). During the day, I sometimes pull long, stretchy strings of if out of my eyes. It's definitely not the consistency of toothpaste; it's gelatinous (and stretchy).

Since you're so helpful, do you have any suggestions about floaters? I have a several, and at times they're like floating spider webs. Its especially annoying when I'm working on the computer or in a room with bright light and white walls. At times, it interferes when I'm reading (I guess my brain doesn't always successfully 'compensate)'. I know there's really no practical procedure to get rid of them, but is there anything I can do?

I'm curious about a few other things (I hope you don't mind): Occasionally, I go through periods where bits of eye makeup (usually from eyeliner or mascara) migrate into little indentations on the white of my eyes (like big black dots); at times, it's difficult to get them out completely without irritating my eyes. Then, the indents seem to recede - and if makeup accumulates, it's in the inner corners, which is pretty normal. What causes these little dents - and is there a way to prevent them?

Also: this has always mystified me: Sometimes, my eye make-up (like the stuff that floats into the dents) appears in my noise or mouth secretions. I know the whole system is connected, but my doctor seemed incredulous when I mentioned this. Have you ever heard of this happening? It doesn't concern me, but it is a bit freaky.

(I promise I'll click the 'accept' button; I just didn't want to close the conversation yet (which sometimes happens). Thanks for being so patient.....

I like the bold....makes things easier to read :o)
Let me address your points one at a time:
I agree with you....allergies are most likely not a large component of your problem. I mentioned them because, in many patients, they do contribute to the issue some......
Chicago is lousy with corneal specialists. The University Ophthalmology program will have a bunch of them. You should also be able to find many in private practice. Asking friends, associates, google search and your ophthalmologist is a good place to start looking for one.... Here is a link to the University:
I would bet that you have blepharitis from what you are telling me. Get some baby shampoo and try the lid scrubs. It won't hurt and it should help :) The "strings" you are pulling out of your eyes is most likely mucus from your dryness....
What can you do about the floaters? Well, floaters don't go away, and they don't really get worse. Over time they tend to "sink" out of your central vision and you brain "filters" them out so you don't notice them so much anymore. They almost never cause significant visual problems except, of course, if they cause a secondary retinal detachment as discussed above. The only way to decrease or remove the floaters is with a major surgery called a vitrectomy. As a retinal specialist for almost 2 decades I've only done this procedure to remove floaters in a handful of cases.
Makeup chunks can easily go through the tear drainage channels and end up in your mystery there.
Whew! I think that is, like, about 10 questions for the the price of one ;o) I need to go take a nap and recover from all this exertion lol!
As a Just Answer Frequent flyer you know that us experts don't go up in a puff of smoke when you hit the accept button...even if you hit it multiple times :D)
Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you in the future and I hope you enjoy watching the Packers win yet another game on Sunday.....
Dr. Rick and other Eye Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Actually - some experts will hang around while the conversation is active - but are then offline for days or more. Didn't mean to deprive you of the multiple clicks you truly deserve!

But to follow-up on your response (which will be followed by a click); if you think the stringy, elastic stuff that sometimes collects in my eyes - and the tearing during the day may be part of the dry eye syndrome, then I'm a bit more concerned that I may have something like Sjogren's (even though my eyes are usually not dry during the day). I hope not....

Actually, my floaters have gotten worse over many years, even more so after I got hit on the head a few years ago (which my doesn't seem too worried about). I know the brain is supposed to compensate for the floaters - so that I'm not constantly aware of them. Most of the time, they fade into the background - but when I am aware of them, they drive me crazy. Sometimes they really do interfere if I'm trying to type, read, etc. I agree that going the surgical route is extreme - and not something I would do unless it got to a point where I couldn't function normally. I just hope I don't continue to collect any more floaters.

What's with the indentations on the white of my eyes, where make-up sometimes collects? They must come and go, because it only happens periodically (and I generally wear the same make-up every day). Is there anything I'm doing to cause them - and can they be prevented (or am I the only person to describe this)?? Could dry eyes be a factor?

I accept!!

Thanks for the click :) Ya, I've heard that some experts are quick to grab the money and run. I wish we could do something about that....oh well, I am but a very small Ind***** *****ving in a large world full of Chiefs :)
I've done a vitrectomy for floaters a number of times but, unless they are making it impossible for you to see, drive, read I would consul you to stay away from this path.
That could be edema of your conjunctiva or just the normal wrinkles that come and go. Did I ever mention allergies ;) as a possible component of your issues? I'd not worry about this too much and, whatever you do, don't use drops like Visine that say they will get the red out...they just make things worse in the long run... And, yes, the irritation from dryness could cause swelling of the conjunctiva and form these indentations.
Have a good weekend and come back and ask me more questions in the future now that you know I don't go up in a puff of smoke when you push that very pretty, fun to mash, accept button lol!