Crime and treatment

A rise in corrosive substance attacks is raising concerns about eye health


As a Londoner, I am well accustomed to reading about crimes that have been committed on the city’s streets. It comes with the territory of living in a buzzing metropolis, right?

However, the spate of acid attacks – or more accurately, corrosive substance attacks – strikes me as particularly grim and frightening.

Taking a cursory glance at the capital's newspaper, the Evening Standard, its website features a section labelled "Acid attacks" – a sure sign of how depressingly ubiquitous these acts have become.

According to figures from 39 police forces in England and Wales, 400 acid or corrosive substance attacks were carried out in the six months up to April 2017.

And such is NHS England's level of concern, the body has released guidance for victims and witnesses to such attacks.

Along with the risk of causing lifelong pain and scarring, acid attacks threaten a victim's sight. Moorfields Eye Hospital consultant ophthalmic surgeon, Raj Das-Bhaumik, told OT that this damage can be: “mild, such as a superficial burn to the lid; moderate, such as the loss of lashes, and inflammation and dryness to the cornea; or severe, such as penetration of the eye or loss of the cornea.”

NHS England has estimated that "the average cost of care for visits requiring specialist burns treatment, eye care, rehabilitation and mental health treatment is £34,500." A depressingly large sum.

Another area putting eye health at risk is the illegal sale of zero-powered cosmetic and novelty contact lenses. Many optical practitioners are aware of illegal sales in their local area, and in response the AOP and General Optical Council have jointly produced an information leaflet, Do you know the law on selling contact lenses?, which sets out the facts and the GOC’s legal remit in this area to act.

With these concerns in mind, the messages of National Eye Health Week feel more timely than ever. Get in touch with OT with your plans to support the campaign.