Most of us under the hood usually start by holding for the light. Flash burn typically comes from staring off into space when you should pay attention and be aware of your surroundings.
In my experience, I’ve found that the GMAW (MIG) and GTAW (TIG) welding processes are the most common causes of flash burn. I went my entire career stick welding without ever getting flash burn. One day simply taking a few photos of a welder performing pulse exposed me enough to receive a flash burn.
I had minimal pain and a cool washrag over my eyes helped me fall back asleep. My eyes weren’t in pain the next day but they were still sensitive to light.
Another experienced I’ve had with flash burn was due to a tiny crack in my welding lens. It wasn’t noticeable when welding and I welded all day unaware of my exposure. This time I had severe pain and was hardly able to fall back asleep. My eyes were still in pain the following day and I had to seek medical attention for a doctor’s proparacaine solution to temporally numb the eye.
A flash burn is a painful inflammation of the cornea, which is the clear tissue that covers the front of the eye. Getting a flash burn is like getting sunburnt on the eye.
The cornea is what covers the iris (the colored part of the eye) and consists of cells similar to those in the skin. It focuses light on the retina and protects the deeper structures of our eyes.
Flash burn occurs when you are over exposed to bright ultraviolet (UV) light. It can be caused by all types of UV light, but welding is the most common source and why flash burn is sometimes referred to as ‘welder’s flash’ or ‘arc eye.’
Your cornea can usually repair itself in one to two days, but if the flash burn is not taken seriously an infection can start and may lead to some loss of vision.
3-12 hours after overexposure to (UV) light, you may begin to notice symptoms.
Symptoms of flash burn:
- The feeling of something in your eye
- Mild to severe pain
- Sensitive to light
- Blurred vision
- Bloodshot eyes
- Watery eyes
What causes flash burn:
- Welding arc
- Direct sunlight
- Sunlamp in a tanning bed
- A photographer’s flood lamp
Flash Burn Remedies:
- Take pain-relieving medication such as ibuprofen
- Apply frozen cucumbers under a damp wash rag
- Don’t apply red-eye drops, only artificial tear drops
- Don’t wear contact lenses until your eyes have healed
- Wear sunglasses if your eyes are sensitive to light
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