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Flash Burns To The Eye

Updated on November 4, 2009

All welders are well aware of the risks involved in looking at a welding arc without protective eye wear, but even so, they sometimes take short cuts, or forget the rules of their trade and develop so-called flash burns to the eye. Other workers in an area where welding is being done, and even passers-by, who have no eye protection, may be affected. The eye is very painful, red and sometimes swollen. There is the equivalent of a superficial burn to the surface of the cornea (the clear outer part of the eye). The same damage can be caused by dropping a hot liquid into the eye. Severe or recurrent eye burns can cause scarring and blindness that can only be corrected by a corneal transplant.

The pain of a flash burn may not develop until 6 to 12 hours after exposure. Medical treatment is essential to relieve the pain, prevent infection, and ensure that the eye heals without scarring. Appropriate eye drops and pain-killing tablets will be pre­scribed by a doctor, and the eye will be covered by a patch until it has recovered. The only effective first-aid measure is a cold, wet compress applied to the eye.

Ultraviolet light may also cause a similar eye condition, and ultraviolet burns to the eye can occur if excessive use is made of ultraviolet lighting at discos, dances and other entertainment venues. Constant ultraviolet light should be used for no more than one third of the time in such venues, and for no more than five minutes at a time. It is better medically (but less aesthetically pleasing) to mix normal and ultraviolet light together with no more than one third of the total lighting wattage being ultraviolet.

Radiant energy (e.g. extremely intense light, or watching the sun) may also burn the eye. This type of burn does not damage the surface of the eye but the light sensitive cells at the back of the eye. Once these cells are destroyed by the concen­trated light, they usually never recover, and a permanent black spot appears in the vision.


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    • agvulpes profile image


      8 years ago from Australia

      yep I've had a few welding flashes myself. Fortunately for me nothing permanently damaged:-)


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