Super Glue your eyes shut? Relax, it’s not going to be permanent

By guest blogger Michael Cohen:

Did you happen to read earlier this month about the woman who accidentally glued one of her eyes shut when she mistook Super Glue (cyanoacrylate adhesive) for her eye drops?  The Associated Press reported that a woman who had cataract surgery a year ago was reaching for what she thought was one of her half-dozen eye medications but picked up a nearby super glue container in error. The burning sensation told her immediately something was seriously wrong, so she went to the hospital where doctors worked on getting her eye opened to avoid permanent damage.

This is certainly not the first time this sort of incident has occurred. In fact, we’ve written about a nearly identical incident that happened to a New Jersey woman. She too instilled super glue (cyanoacrylate) into one of her eyes instead of eye drops and glued her eyelids together. She was treated at a hospital where the glue was carefully removed and, fortunately, suffered no permanent damage. A search of the medical literature confirms that this has happened numerous times.

There are many cyanoacrylate adhesive products and they are known by many different brand names. Krazy Glue is another popular brand. At one time, these glues did come in containers that were nearly identical to eye drop containers, but problems happened so often that changes were made to reduce potential confusion. I didn’t see any photographs of the actual containers the woman used, nor was I able to confirm that the product was actually the Super Glue brand of cyanoacrylate adhesive. The container may have been an older bottle that looked like eye drops. Still, patients with poor eyesight might be at risk of potentially dangerous medication errors, even with the newer container designs. For example, Super Glue does look somewhat like a tube of eye ointment.

The bond formed by these glues is extremely strong. In fact anyone who’s used cyanoacrylates and gotten glue on themselves has probably run into a situation where their fingers got stuck together or to whatever was being glued, and it became difficult to pull things apart. This is such a common problem that the manufacturer of Super Glue, the Super Glue Corporation, has a page on their website devoted to removal of the glue from body parts. As for fingers sticking together or sticking to whatever you’re gluing, that’s an easy to fix. A small amount of nail polish remover applied with a Q-tip will do the trick. Be sure the nail polish remover contains acetone, a mortal enemy of cyanoacrylate glues. You will not want to use acetone near your eyes though, since that could be damaging to vision.

In the event that eyelids are stuck together or bonded to the eyeball, Super Glue Corporation recommends that you wash thoroughly with warm water and apply a gauze patch. The eye will open without further action within 1-4 days. The good news is that the manufacturer says that there has never been a documented case of adhesive in the eye causing permanent damage.

It’s probably not a bad idea to review removal instructions now so you know what to do and where to go in the event that someone does confused glue with something else.

Those using eye medications should keep potential confusion in mind and not purchase in any sort of container that looks anything at all like an eye medication. Also, be sure to store glue far away from medications, with household tools or other repair items but never around the bathroom or kitchen or wherever medications are kept.

For information on the Institute for Safe Medication Practices' consumer website go
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