Corneal abrasions associated with pepper spray exposure

Am J Emerg Med. 2000 May;18(3):271-2. doi: 10.1016/s0735-6757(00)90120-7.


Pepper spray containing oleoresin capsicum is used by law enforcement and the public as a form of nonlethal deterrent. Stimulated by the identification of a case of a corneal abrasion associated with pepper spray exposure, a descriptive retrospective review of a physician-maintained log of patients presenting to a jail ward emergency area over a 3-year period was performed. The objective was to give some quantification to the frequency with which an emergency physician could expect to see corneal abrasions associated with pepper spray exposure. Of 100 cases of pepper spray exposure identified, seven patients had sustained corneal abrasions. We conclude that corneal abrasions are not rare events when patients are exposed to pepper spray and that fluorescein staining and slit lamp or Wood's lamp examination should be performed on all exposed patients in whom corneal abrasions cannot be excluded on clinical grounds.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aerosols
  • Capsicum / adverse effects*
  • Contrast Media
  • Corneal Injuries*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Treatment / methods*
  • Eye Injuries, Penetrating / chemically induced*
  • Eye Injuries, Penetrating / diagnosis
  • Eye Injuries, Penetrating / therapy
  • Female
  • Fluorescein
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Police
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prisons
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Visual Acuity


  • Aerosols
  • Contrast Media
  • Fluorescein