Is welding bad for your eyes? Yes, if you don’t use appropriate eye protection. Welding arcs generate UV radiation of different wavelengths. UV radiation, in simple terms, is an intensely bright light.
Long-term exposure to UV-rays can trigger inflammation and injury to the cornea and conjunctiva membrane of your eyes. The proper medical term for this condition is UV Keratitis.
Since cornea inflammation is quite a common phenomenon among welders, this condition is popularly known as welder’s eye/ welder’s flash/arc-eye/corneal flash burn.
Here are the common symptoms of Welder’s Eye:
- Symptoms of Welder’s Flash Burn
- How Serious Is Welding Flash Burn? Can You Go Blind from It?
- What to Do When You Begin to Experience the Symptoms of Welder’s Eye?
- 6 Home Remedies to Relieve the Symptoms of Welder’s Flash
- Apply Dilating Drops
- OTC Medication
- In Conclusion
Symptoms of Welder’s Flash Burn
Flash burn caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays can trigger the following symptoms:
- Mild to severe pain in the eyes that typically starts 6-12 hours after the exposure. This mainly happens due to the swelling of the corneal tissue.
- Watery and bloodshot eyes
- Moderate to severe headache.
- Dark spot in the vision that could last for several minutes.
- Photophobia or extreme sensitivity to light.
- Blurred vision.
- The sensation of having sand in your eyes.
How Serious Is Welding Flash Burn? Can You Go Blind from It?
Well, first things first, the chances of you going blind from welder’s eye is very slim. So, relax, get some Gatorade or something.
Only serious retinal damage may lead to partial or full vision impairment. The good thing is that the natural lens of our eyes is the first line of defense as it absorbs most of the UV-A radiation.
There are 4 factors that determine the severity of UV keratitis:
- The distance between you and the welding arc.
- The intensity of the weld flash.
- Duration of the exposure.
- Whether it was direct or indirect exposure. Wearing any safety goggle will provide at least some degree of protection from the harmful UV rays.
Even a 5-10 seconds’ glance at the arc from a close range (within 10 feet) can cause welder’s eye. The longer you stare at it, the worse it is going to be for you.
If left untreated for an extended period, this could increase your risk of developing macular degeneration or cataract.
If you accidentally get flashed while welding, don’t freak out and do the following:
What to Do When You Begin to Experience the Symptoms of Welder’s Eye?
I have been welding for nearly 10 years, which means I’m obviously no stranger to welder’s eye. Here’s what I suggest doing in the event of a flash burn from weld arc:
- Don’t flush your eyes if you’re certain that your eyes are hurting because of UV exposure. This will only aggravate the pain. Instead, gently apply an ice pack on your eyelids to reduce the inflammation.
- If you are wearing contact lenses, take them off and don’t wear them until the pain completely goes away.
- Take a wet cloth or napkin and gently dab your eyes with it to reduce swelling and inflammation.
- Cover your eyes with a padded dressing to keep foreign objects from getting into your eyes and setting off an infection.
- Book an appointment with your optometrist or call your GP. If your pain keeps getting worse coupled with a nasty headache, call 911.
6 Home Remedies to Relieve the Symptoms of Welder’s Flash
The remedies I’m about to mention can only provide temporary relief for mild to moderate injury. If you believe the injury is minor, here are a few things you can do to ease your pain-
The cooling properties of cucumber are impeccable and it’s an ingredient most people have in their fridge. Take a cold cucumber, cut two thick slices, put them on your eyes, and relax for 15 minutes.
Once the pieces feel lukewarm, replace them with freshly cut cold slices. This will not only calm the inflammation but also provide deep moisturization to the affected skin.
Another ingredient with fantastic cooling properties – aloe vera gel will provide instant relief from the redness and discomfort. It’s loaded with anti-inflammatory properties as well which could prevent any possible infection.
Cold Potato Slices
Like cucumber and aloe vera, potatoes also boast amazing cooling ability. Putting semi-thin slices of cold potato on your eyes can relieve itching, inflammation, and redness.
Banana is a great source of vitamin B-12, C, and potassium. All these nutrients have strong anti-inflammatory properties. You can limit the inflammation by smashing a banana into a fine pulp and applying a small amount onto your closed eyes.
Let it sit for 3-5 minutes and rinse it off with plain water.
Used Green Tea Bag
Green tea is packed with antioxidants and is mildly astringent – making it a very useful home remedy for dry eyes, swelling, and burning sensation. If you don’t have green tea bags, you can use chamomile or regular tea bags as well. All you have to do is simply make yourself a cup of tea using a tea bag, put the used bag in the fridge until it cools down and dries out a bit. Take it out and gently place it on the target area. Let it rest for about 15 minutes while you sip your tea nice and slow.
Certain enzymes in cow’s milk can help to break down the tissues responsible for inflammation. Milk will also deeply moisturize the area which could naturally treat dry eyes caused by the flash burn.
Simply soak a cotton ball in pre-boiled, cool, or room temperature milk and apply it to the affected area. Then rinse it off with cold water.
If the home remedies aren’t making any improvements or you want to try a different approach, try the following methods:
Apply Dilating Drops
Dilating eye drops can be immensely helpful in soothing the burning sensation as it helps the eye muscles relax. As the name suggests, this drop will enlarge your pupils which could speed up the healing process.
The effect of dilating drops can last for 4-24 hours. Depending on the severity of the burn, your physician can also prescribe you a mild steroid-based eye drop.
Need a quick fix for the intense burn before you can reach the ER? Try OTC meds like ibuprofen, paracetamol, aspirin or codeine. Their anti-inflammatory properties will provide temporary relief from the discomfort.
It goes without saying that you should always use discretion while taking OTC medicines. I’d strongly advise giving a quick call to your GP and ask what meds you should take instead of playing doctor.
In most cases, the welder’s flash symptoms completely go away in a day or two. At least, it does in my case. I would still strongly urge you to get your eyes checked by an optometrist to rule out the risk of infection or retina damage.
To prevent the risk of getting a flash burn in the future, make sure to invest in a high-quality auto-darkening helmet or goggle, depending on the task.
Never weld without proper eye protection and try your best to avoid looking at weld arc even from a good distance. Rest assured, you will be just fine!