Eye wash solutions can be used to rinse and ease irritated eyes. A trip to the drugstore or a simple online search reveals there are a wide variety of eye wash products available for purchase.
Boric acid is an ingredient that can be found in many eye wash solutions. Why is boric acid included in eye wash solutions and are they safe to use? What are the possible side effects of using a boric acid eye wash solution?
Read on to find out more.
The main component of boric acid is the element boron. Boron is a very common element, typically found in minerals and some types of rock.
In the environment, boron is predominantly found as a compound, which is a combination of two or more elements joined together. Boric acid is one of the common boron compounds.
In its natural form, boric acid can appear as a colorless or white powder or crystal. It’s weakly acidic and has some mild antiseptic properties.
Some boric acid preparations can cause skin irritation and can even be toxic if ingested.
Boric acid can often be included as an ingredient in eye wash solutions. Despite the fact that other boric acid preparations can be toxic (if ingested), the concentration of boric acid in eye products is so low that it’s not harmful for you to use them.
The benefit of including boric acid in eye wash solutions is that it can serve several different functions, including as:
- An antiseptic. Boric acid has mild antibacterial and antifungal properties. This means that it can help to slow or prevent the growth of bacteria or fungi in the eye.
- A buffering agent. Buffering agents are used to maintain the pH of a solution, even if another acid or base is added or encountered. As a buffering agent, boric acid helps to maintain the pH of eye wash solutions.
- A tonicity-adjusting agent. The fluids of your body contain a certain concentration of dissolved molecules. Because molecules can move from areas of higher concentration to areas of lower concentration, it’s important that eye wash solutions closely match the concentration of dissolved molecules in the eye. Boric acid can be used as a tonicity-adjusting agent to make eye washes more compatible with the chemical environment of your eye.
Eye washes that contain boric acid are used to wash, clean, and ease irritated eyes. When your eyes are irritated, you may feel sensations such as itchiness, dryness, or burning.
Your eyes can become irritated for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:
- foreign objects or materials in the eye, such as debris in the air or chlorinated water
- eye allergies
- dry eyes
- infections due to bacteria, viruses, or fungi
Many eye washes containing boric acid are available as over-the-counter products. You should check the list of ingredients to see if a product contains boric acid or not.
It’s important to note that boric acid eye washes should only be used to treat mild eye irritation.
For example, boric acid eye washes may ease eye irritation for people with mild eye allergies. However, someone with more severe allergies may require prescription-strength steroid eye drops.
Additionally, if you suspect you have a bacterial or fungal eye infection, you shouldn’t use boric acid eye drops. Instead, make an appointment with your doctor. You’ll need prescription eye drops containing antibiotics or antifungal agents to treat your condition.
Using eye washes with boric acid can have some negative side effects, which can include:
- changes in vision, including blurred vision
- eye irritation
- eye pain
- eye redness
- sores in or around the eyes
If you experience any of the following side effects after using a boric acid eye wash, you should stop using it and consult your doctor.
If using a boric acid eye wash leads to side effects, you should consider using an eye wash product that doesn’t contain boric acid in the future. Be sure to read the list of ingredients to make sure boric acid isn’t listed.
Boric acid eye washes may come as an eye dropper or with an eye cup. You should always follow the specific instructions given on the product packaging or provided by your doctor for applying a boric acid eye wash.
To apply the wash as eye drops:
- Turn the bottle upside down and tilt your head backward, looking up at the ceiling.
- Gently pull the lower lid of your eye downward. Position the tip of the bottle above your eye, without touching the surface of your eye.
- Gently squeeze the bottle so that the eye wash drops onto your eye. Be sure to carefully follow the packaging instructions regarding how much eye wash to apply.
- Close your eyes, allowing the wash to make contact with your eye. Blot the skin around your eye with a clean tissue if necessary.
When using an eye cup it may help to do this over a sink:
- Fill the cup according to the packaging instructions.
- While you’re looking down, press the cup firmly around your eye. Then tilt your head backward.
- Allow the eye wash to make contact with your open eye, moving your eyeball around to ensure even distribution.
- Tilt your head forward again to remove the eye cup and release the contents of the cup into a sink.
You should always be sure to follow the safety tips below when using a boric acid eye wash:
- Never put any liquid into your eyes if it doesn’t say that it’s specifically for use in the eyes (ophthalmic use).
- Don’t use the eye wash if it’s past its expiration date.
- Always remove contact lenses before applying the eye wash.
- Check the condition and contents of the bottle. Don’t use the eye wash if there are visible leaks from the bottle. If the eye wash solution looks discolored or cloudy, don’t use it.
- Handle the bottle and eye cup properly with clean hands. Avoid touching any part of the bottle or eye cup that may come into close contact with your eyes. Improperly handled bottles and eye cups can become contaminated with bacteria such as Staphylococcus species.
Boric acid is often an ingredient in eye wash products. It’s predominantly used as a mild antiseptic and to maintain the pH of the eye wash solution.
Boric acid eye washes can be used to clean and ease mild cases of irritated eyes. Some people may experience side effects from using a boric acid eye wash, including eye redness and irritation.
If you choose to use a boric acid eye wash you should be sure to follow all instructions on the packaging. Additionally, proper handling of the bottle and eye cup can prevent contamination of the eye wash solution.