Effects of tear gases on the eye

Surv Ophthalmol. 2016 Jul-Aug;61(4):434-42. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2016.01.002. Epub 2016 Jan 22.


Chemical agents that target the eyes have been a popular choice for law enforcement during riots and for military training for nearly a century. The most commonly used agents are chloroacetophenone (formerly sold as Mace), o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile, and oleoresin capsicum (OC or pepper spray, current ingredient for Mace). Initially, most severe ocular injuries were caused by the explosive force rather than the chemical itself. The development of sprays reduced the mechanical severity of ocular injuries, but resulted in a variety of chemical injuries. The effects on eyes include conjunctival injection, complete corneal epithelial defects, pseudopterygium, corneal neovascularization, persistent conjunctivalization, corneal opacities, and reduced visual acuity. Current management, based on limited human studies, emphasizes decontamination and symptomatic treatment. We review the literature related to clinical and histopathologic effects of tear gas agents on the eye and their management.

Keywords: chloroacetophenone; eye injuries; lacrimators; mace; oleoresin capsicum; pepper spray; tear gas.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Eye / drug effects*
  • Eye Injuries / chemically induced*
  • Eye Injuries / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Tear Gases / adverse effects*


  • Tear Gases