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Letters to the Editor

Ocular surface burn secondary to smart phone battery blast

Narang, Purvasha; Mittal, Vikas; Mittal, Ruchi1; Mathur, Anurag2

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Indian Journal of Ophthalmology: April 2017 - Volume 65 - Issue 4 - p 326
doi: 10.4103/ijo.IJO_495_16
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Indiscriminate usage of cellphones makes us vulnerable to the associated risks including accidental burns and blast injuries.[1] Low-quality products and user negligence increase the risks.[2] A 37-year-old male admitted in emergency services of Sanjivni Eye Care, Ambala with pain, burning sensation and watering from both the eyes, following a smartphone battery blast. Immediately, after disconnecting the phone from the charger (after overnight charging), he tried to make a call. Since it was hot, it accidentally fell from his hand, its battery exploded and the phone blew apart. This led to sudden emission of smoke, flames, and soot particles, affecting his eyes, as he was facing it. His presenting visual acuity was 20/120 and 20/600 in right eye and left eye (LE), respectively. Examination revealed charred lashes, circumciliary congestion and multiple soot particles embedded over the cornea, conjunctiva, and the lid margins [Fig. 1a and b]. There was no limbal ischemia and it was diagnosed as Grade 1 ocular surface burn.[3] The eyes were washed with copious ringer lactate and the debris was carefully removed under operating microscope and eyes were re-examined. Fluorescein staining showed corneal epithelial defects [Fig. 1c and d]. Posterior segments and intraocular pressures were normal, with no intraocular foreign bodies. Topical preservative free lubricants, corticosteroids (in tapering doses), broad-spectrum antibacterial agent, and cycloplegic agent, were prescribed along with systemic nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug for pain relief. The healing of epithelial defects started next day and was complete by the 3rd day. Inflammation subsided in 1 month with good final outcome in both eyes (unaided visual acuity 20/20; clear corneas except a faint peripheral scar in LE) [Supplementary File 1].

Figure 1
Figure 1:
Diffuse clinical picture of both eyes at presentation. (a and b) Showing soot particles and congestion in RE and LE respectively; (c and d) Fluorescein staining showing central epithelial defect

Lithium-ion batteries, commonly used to power devices such as laptops, cellphones, smart watches, and e-cigarettes are known explosion hazards.[45] Explosions involving smartphone batteries are sparsely reported.[12] Face and eyes are particularly prone to injury while using these phones. Ocular surface burns have not yet been reported. The mechanism of injury from battery blast could be a combination of mechanical, thermal, and chemical injuries. These batteries may overheat during charging leading to “thermal runaway,” an unregulated increase in internal battery temperature.[5] Timely presentation, proper management of the ocular surface burns salvaged the vision in our patient. This case signifies the need to increase public awareness about the potential risks associated with cellphone use, to adopt safe practices as per recommendations from the manufacturers and to avoid counterfeit products, to avoid such accidents.[2]

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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© 2017 Indian Journal of Ophthalmology | Published by Wolters Kluwer – Medknow