How Long Does Welder’s Flash Burn Last?

Pain caused by the welder’s flash burn can be unbearable at times and might lead to further damage if accompanied by irritation or swelling. Welder’s flash is mostly caused by the exposure to ultraviolet light released from welding torches and arcs is associated with permanent or temporary damage to the cornea.

Apart from this, there might be various other reasons for flash burns. However, the time taken for recovery and the doubt about the recovery is more frightening than the pain caused by the inflammation. So, we have developed a detailed guide on how long the welder’s flash burn lasts, along with potential causes, symptoms, and treatments for a speedy recovery.

How Long Does Welder’s Flash Burn Last?

What is Welder’s Flash and Major Cause?

Welders flash burn, also referred to as flash burn, is the severe inflammation of the cornea, which can damage the eye. The cornea is a layer of tissues that are located at the front region of the eye and is tasked with focusing the light on the eye for better visibility. A welder’s burn can occur because of a variety of reasons not common, among which include exposure to intense ultraviolet light.

It is named “the welders flash burn” because the majority of incidents occur because of the welding torches. Similar to sunburns the flash burns can affect either one or both eyes, and the severity varies with the time of exposure. Although cornea can naturally recover itself within two to three days. However, negligence in the proper treatment might lead to eye infections or other serious issues with time. Eventually leading to loss of sight. Thus, you must be very careful in this regard.

Other Causes

Apart from the welding torches and exposure to ultraviolet light, there are many other causes of flash burns as well. They include long-term exposure to direct sunlight that contains many other harmful substances apart from UV rays. Similarly, staring at the reflection sun in water or snow is another reason for cornea inflammation.

What is Welder's Flash and Major Cause

Besides this, most people also report hurting their eyes when exposed to halogen or a photographer’s flood lamp. The cornea is a sensitive part of the human eye and can get damaged easily. Thus, you must cover your eyes properly before exposing them to intense light.

Effect of Welder’s Flash Burn on Cornea

When the cornea is exposed to ultraviolet light for longer time intervals, it gets damaged and causes irritation and redness. Rubbing the eyes might further lead to severe damage, which can cause the eyes to turn bloodshot. Oftentimes, negligence in the proper treatment or continuous rubbing might cause permanent damage to the eyes that is associated with loss of vision.

As mentioned earlier, the cornea can naturally repair itself in two to three days without leaving any scars. But, mistreating the wound or putting stress on the eyes might disturb the natural healing process, which can lead to irreversible damage. Therefore, we recommend seeking expert guidance before the problem escalates.

Symptoms of Welder’s Flash Burn

There are a variety of symptoms associated with the welder’s flash. These factors might be among different types of individuals depending on the extent of damage and the condition of the eye prior to the exposure. Based on the reported case following are the most common symptoms of the welders flash.

  • Light sensitivity
  • Pain (which varies with the degree of damage). The pain often starts after a few hours of damage to the cornea.
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Irritation (patients often complain about the feeling of something being stuck in the eye).
  • Loss of sight (less common)

The symptoms of the flash burn start appearing immediately after exposure, mostly when the individual stops looking at the source of ultraviolet light. Initially, the eyes start itching, and you might feel irritation for a long time. This is followed by swelling of the eyes. Irritation is also accompanied by watery eyes, which might get worse with rubbing.

Rubbing can turn the eyes bloodshot, causing infection after some time. This is when you should seek expert guidance since an infection might hinder the repairing process. Sometimes eyesight is also affected, and you might feel haziness. This symptom is specific to the damage caused by the welding torch and shall never be neglected.

What Happens When You Are Accidentally Exposed to a Welding Arc?

As mentioned earlier, the most common incidents of flash burns are associated with welding torches. Therefore, if you are not a welder, there is little chance of your eyes getting exposed to a welding arc. But, those that are unfortunate enough to accidentally look at it without wearing the personal protective equipment often suffer from the following symptoms. Also have a look the article about, How Bright Is The Welding Arc Compared To The Sun?

At first, the eyes start to irritate. The irritation is followed by mild or intense pain, depending on the extent of the damage. Some patients also report feeling intense pressure around the eye sockets. After a few hours, the eyes develop hypersensitivity to light which can get worse with time if left untreated. The haziness might lead to watery eyes.

What Happens When You Are Accidentally Exposed to a Welding Arc

All these symptoms are the general ones faced by the majority of individuals. However, there are much more issues accompanied by the infection of the cornea and highly depend on the severity of the burn, distance from the light source, duration of exposure, and the eye condition of the patient.

Diagnosis of Welder’s Flash Burn

The welder’s burn can be diagnosed by a physician and might require a detailed examination of the eyes which can be carried out via the following methods. The first and the most commonly used method is the anesthetic eye drops. These eye drops can numb your eyes and can provide enough time for the physician to diagnose the issue without hurting.

However, we do not recommend using them often as they are associated with a delay in the natural healing process. Apart from eye drops, dyes can also be used in this regard. They are used in combination with drops to inspect the damage. Doctors utilize an orange dye that can help in the detection of damage when it is exposed to blue light. Moreover, the dye is completely safe for the eyes and can be easily washed off.

Besides the above-mentioned method, another type of test can also be carried out to analyze the damage to the cornea. It is known as a visual activity test and is done to check your vision. It involves a thorough examination of the eye with the help of a microscope. Eye drops and orange dye are used in this test as well. After the test, the physician can easily identify whether the burn has impacted your eyesight or not. He/She might also recommend further examination as well based on the condition of your eye.

Treatment of Welders Burn

Once the problem is identified, then comes the time for treating it. We do not recommend treating your eyes at home. Instead, we encourage you to contact an eye specialist and get your eyes tested to identify the cause of the problem. What looks like a flash burn might actually be some bacterial or fungal infection. Once the problem has been identified as the flash burn, then you can start the treatment accordingly.

They often use dilating drops to relax the eye muscles and ease the pain caused by the damaged tissues. Thereby allowing your eyes to heal. But, these drops will dilate the pupil and make the eyes sensitive to light. So, you should be careful while using them. Doctors recommend resting indoors when using these. Apart from dilating drops, eyes pads with soothing medicines can also be used to cover the eyes.

They not only soothe the pain and irritation but also help in the healing process. Pain and irritation can also be reduced with cold packs. In case of bacterial or fungal infections, antibiotics are also used to kill the bacteria and protect the eyes against potential bacterial invasion. We strongly advise against using any antibiotic ointments without seeking expert guidance.

This might aggravate your condition and might lead to complete loss of vision. After the initial treatment is carried out, the follow-up treatment is equally important. After 24 hours, the doctor will again examine your eyes to check the healing status and might also check your vision. In case of serious infection, you might also be referred to a senior eye specialist for further examination and treatment. But prevention is always better than treatment, here is how to prevent burns while welding.

General Instructions for Using Eye Drops

General Instructions for Using Eye Drops

Following steps should be followed while applying the ointment to the eyes.

  1. Wash your hands properly before touching the eyes as the pathogens on your hands might enter the eye leading to potential infections.
  2. Instead of directly rubbing the eyes, place your finger on the cheek and gently pull it to lower the eyelid.
  3. To add eye drops, you should first tilt your head backward and then add the drops to prevent irritation.
  4. You should be extremely careful while applying the ointment.
  5. Make sure that the nozzle of the ointment does not touch your eye.
  6. Apply a small amount in the lower section and gently spread it.
  7. Do not stop the treatment in the middle. Complete the whole process for rapid healing and recovery.
  8. Keep the ointments at a low temperature and away from sunlight.

Anything Else?

  • We recommend taking pain-relieving medicines to ease the pain and irritation. These include paracetamol, codeine and ibuprofen.
  • Avoid the use of contact lenses and rest as much as possible. Staying indoors and putting less pressure on the eyes can increase healing.
  • If you are using dilating drops, wear sunglasses regularly in bright light conditions. The enhanced pupil is extremely sensitive to light and might cause pain when exposed to bright light.
  •  Don’t miss the follow-up treatment and regular check-ups for rapid recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can one prevent the welder's flash?

A welder’s flash can be prevented in many ways. You can protect the tissues of the cornea by wearing protective equipment such as safety goggles or welders masks. This will prevent exposure to Ultraviolet light. Make sure that the safety goggles are manufactured according to the safety standard and are effective against all types of UV radiations (UV-A, B, and C). We also advise wearing tools that cover the eyes from all directions to prevent light penetration from different angles.

When should I seek medical advice for flash burns?

It is advised to seek immediate guidance if exposed to intense light. However, if you have not contacted a doctor, make sure to visit on as soon as possible, especially if you face symptoms such as blurred vision, bloodshot eyes, eye swelling, worsening glare, intense pain, and hypersensitivity to light. The examiner will identify the degree of damage and will treat your eyes accordingly. He/She will also help analyze for bacterial infections if any.

Can welding flash burn your skin?

Yes, welding torches and arcs that use ultraviolet light and infrared radiation to melt the metal can burn your skin. These radiations are also found in the natural sunlight and might harm your eyes and skin if exposed for longer periods of time. The ultraviolet light in welding equipment might be intense to aid in the welding and can easily cause rashes or burns on the skin. Thus, you should cover yourself properly before exposure to such dangerous substances.

How long does it take for the flash burn to set in?

It takes around 3 to 14 hours after initial exposure that the symptoms begin to surface. The initial symptoms may include slight irritation, mild pain which might get worse with time, swelling of eyes, light sensitivity, and bloodshot eyes. More symptoms may occur after a few days depending on the healing process and condition of the eye.

Wrapping Up

Welder’s flash burns are extremely dangerous for the eyes and can either temporarily or permanently damage the tissues of the cornea. The extent of damage highly depends on the duration of exposure, amount and intensity of the ultraviolet light, angle of exposure, condition of the eye prior to the damage, and the treatment procedure.

We advise seeking medical assistance as soon as possible to prevent bacterial infection and additional damage to the eyes. Although the cornea can heal itself within 2 to 3 days without leaving any scar. However, delay in treatment and exposure to light might aggravate the condition and lead to irreversible damage such as loss of vision.

About Dave Walker

Dave Walker, a professional welder who has been welding from an early age. Now aims to help others by making them learning skills and finding them new opportunities. He has written for many welding blogs and helped many pursue their welding goals by helping them in choosing the best welding tools of the time.

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