Have you ever happened to look directly at a very bright light, and found yourself having very irritated eyes afterward? Well, it does happen more times for certain people compared to others, especially when you are in a profession such as welding.
You may also have noticed that welders never operate when they are not wearing protective eyewear, and when you think about their work, it actually makes perfect sense – they are basically protecting their eyes from developing welder’s flash or rash.
It is not only them that can be affected by the condition though – as long as your eyes receive ultraviolet light exposure, such as looking directly at solar eclipses, you will also suffer damage to your eyes.
However, just like any other problem, it can be treated and even prevented. If it affects you at some point, it is painful – but you need to understand what it is so that you can prevent it from happening.
What is flash burn?
This is an inflammation of the cornea, a tissue that protects the front part of your eye. It can be caused by any type of ultraviolet light source, although the most common cause is the welder’s torch – which is why it is also called arc eye or welder’s flash.
Flash burns behave in a similar way to sunburns on your skin – they are painful and itchy, and can even affect both your eyes. The cornea is capable of repairing itself in 24 to 48 hours, and it will usually not leave scars once it completely heals. The problem is when the burn is not treated immediately, as it will leave your eyes open to infections. These are very serious, as it can cause loss in your vision.
Other causes include looking directly at the sun, even at higher elevations, looking directly at sun reflections (the sun will reflect very brightly off water, snow, and sand), tanning beds and very bright lights such as halogen bulbs and lasers.
Signs of welder’s flash
The symptoms begin very quickly – they can even begin appearing minutes after you have stopped looking at the source of the ultraviolet light. They include pain in the eyes when you look at the light, twitching or swelling eyelids, eyes becoming watery, and bloodshot eyes or red skin around the eye. In addition, your eyesight becomes cloudy or hazy, and it gradually becomes worse.
Diagnosing welder’s flash
When you go to the doctor to have a checkup, the healthcare professional will ask you about the symptoms you are experiencing, and they will check your eyes. They can also ask you about the activities you were doing just before the symptoms started, and check your eyelids.
One test that is commonly done to check for damage is the slit lamp test. The doctor will use a microscope to check your eyes for any damage, and they may also use an orange dye and use a special blue light to examine the extent of damage to the cornea – the dye is not harmful, and it will wash away with your tears. The other is the visual acuity test, when they will examine your eye movements and overall vision.
Treating flash burns
Another method is putting some padded dressings on the eyes, but this will require very minimal activity from them – including driving. Antibiotics are also very effective in healing the cornea, and also safeguarding against infection.
When the doctor prescribes them, make sure to follow their advice strictly on how to use the medication. They can also supplement this treatment by giving you some anti-inflammatory drops that are mild steroids in nature.
The occurrence of flash burns is not something that should be taken lightly. In addition to the treatment methods, you must go for a medical checkup in one to two days at most. For certain issues like infections, they tend not to show up immediately, so the doctor can recommend further treatment by booking you for an ophthalmologist appointment.