Welder’s flash, medically referred to as corneal flash burns, is a condition that causes damage to the cornea following exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. The cornea is the clear tissue that is located at the front part of the eyeball. When the eye is exposed to UV rays, the cornea takes the brunt of this damage, particularly in the absence of eye protective gear.
The most common source of this UV light is direct sunlight and the welders arc, hence the name of the condition. Other common sources of UV light include the flood lamps used during photography, a sun lamp and even a desk lamp that is powered by halogens. For mountain hikers, snow blindness may also cause corneal damage. This happens when the sun’s light reflects off the snow at high altitudes.
Simply put, welder’s flash is sunburn that affects one or both eyes as a result of long exposure to UV light. This causes damage to the eye because the cornea, which covers the iris of the eye, is designed to focus light and prevent the other parts of the eye from getting damaged.
The symptoms of welders flash usually start to manifest anywhere between 2 and 12 hours after overexposure to the UV light. These symptoms include increased sensitivity to light, blurred vision and the characteristic sensation of a foreign body lodged in the eye. Additionally, the pain felt may range from very mild to severe and in need of immediate medical attention. Some people will get bloodshot eyes and have excessive tearing.
For the most part, both eyes are affected by welders flash, but it is important to mention that the symptoms may typically be worse in one eye. There are home remedies used to treat the corneal damage naturally, but in severe cases, medical attention is a must. If left untreated, this condition predisposes the eye to disease and damage. As a general rule, if the pain does not subside after a few days of using the remedies, you need to have your eyes checked by an ophthalmologist (this is a qualified eye specialist). Use the home remedies listed below to speed up the process of recovery. If in doubt, consult your doctor on the way forward.
1. Rest Your Eyes:
Time Required: Varies, but at least several hours daily.
What You Need: A quiet and dimly lit room to rest in.
The first thing you need to do even before using any of the remedies listed below is to rest the eyes immediately you realize your eyes may have suffered corneal damage. Exposure to the UV lights will start to show symptoms a couple of hours later, so it helps to avoid straining the eyes. If possible, keep your eyes closed for a couple of hours daily. Listed below are tips that will help you keep the eyes well rested. Note that the time span for this specific remedy varies from one person to another depending on external factors, but it is highly recommended that you rest the eyes severally in a day.
Tips to Help Rest the Eyes:
- Simply, keep the eyes closed for as long as you can. This reduces eye movement and goes a long way in keeping the pain and inflammation down.
- The purpose of using a dimly lit room is because bright flashing lights will only aggravate the condition and make it less likely to recover quickly.
- Avoid activities that strain the eye. These include reading, writing, beading, and of course welding.
- Do not rinse the eyes directly using warm water to avoid irritation of the cornea; instead, soak a gauze in warm water for a couple of minutes and then use the wet gauze to rinse the eyes.
2. Ice Packs:
Time Required: 20 Min
What You Need: A handful of ice cubes and a clean towel (preferably thick).
Welders flash is typically accompanied by lots of pain in the affected eyes. In some cases, the pain is so intense that it makes eye movement a herculean task. This is where the ice packs come in handy. Ice packs are an excellent remedy for pain reduction and also go a long way in treating bloodshot eyes, another symptom of corneal damage as a result of overexposure to UV light.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to ensure that the ice cubes are not rubbed on the eyes directly. Failure to do this causes skin damage to the eyes, which may compound the symptoms of welder’s flash. Prepare the ice pack by following the directions below.
- Place the ice cubes on a clean towel and wrap them so that you have a handy pack which you can apply on the affected eyes.
- Lie down face upwards and gently massage the affected eye(s) using the ice pack.
- Apply just enough pressure to prevent exerting damage on the sensitive eyes.
- Do this for a couple of minutes and take a break.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the ice starts to melt.
- Use this remedy as often as you need to until the cornea is totally healed.
Time Required: 20 Min
What You Need: 1/4 Cup of ready-to-drink milk (boiled or pasteurized), cotton wool, warm water and dropper (optional).
Use milk to treat welder’s flash and eliminate the symptoms associated with the condition. Milk is known to contain natural enzymes that ease the itching and help moisturize the dry eyes. When cool milk is applied, it helps ease the pain and inflammation in the affected eyes. If you like, you may use a dropper to add the milk directly to the eye. This is helpful as it also helps cleanse the eyes.
- Refrigerate the milk for a short while and then soak the cotton wool in it.
- Squeeze the excess milk and then, using the wet wool, apply the milk to the eyes.
- You may opt to squeeze in a few drops of the milk directly in the affected eyes.
- Let the remedy remain for about 10 minutes before rinsing using warm water.
- Use this remedy as often as you need to improve the health of the cornea and prevent further damage.
4. Raw Potato:
Time Required: 15 Min
What You Need: 1 Small-sized potato.
Raw potato is one of the most polar home remedies for the natural treatment of welder’s flash. This is because the potato not only provides a cooling effect that soothes the eyes, it also has excellent anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce the pain and inflammation. Welder’s flash has been known to dry the eyes and make them itchy. By rubbing the eyes with potato slices, it is easier to reduce the dryness and keep the itchiness at bay. Follow the simple directions outlined below to get the most of this remedy.
- Peel and wash the potato to prevent introducing dirt and debris to the eyes.
- Cut several potato slices which you will need to place on the eyes.
- Lie down, relax and cover the eyes with the potato slices. You will immediately feel a cooling effect that helps reduce the burning sensation in the affected eye.
- Do this as often as you need to speed the recovery process for the cornea.
5. Fresh Cucumber:
Time Required: 20 Min
What You Need: Fresh cucumber cut into slices.
Fresh cucumber is not only a perfect DIY face care choice, it also makes an excellent remedy for the natural treatment of welder’s flash. Just like raw potatoes, cucumber slices have a cooling sensation when applied on the affected eye. This provides much-needed relief from the pain in the eye. Cucumber is also very succulent, and this means its moisturizing properties help reduce the dryness in the eye as well as on the skin surrounding the eye.
- Clean the cucumber well to avoid introducing dirt to the affected eye.
- Cut the cucumber into several thin slices and place them over the eyes.
- After about 5 minutes, discard the used cucumber slices and use fresh ones, each time gently massaging the eyes.
- Use this remedy severally to get relief from welder’s flash.
Time Required: 20 Min
What You Need: 2 Teabags, a cup of warm water and a couple of ice cubes (optional).
Used teabags have excellent healing properties that help deal with the symptoms of welder’s flash. Rich in tannins whose antioxidant properties reduce the extent of damage, teabags are both simple and easy to use. More importantly, the tea bags reduce irritation of the affected eyes and help moisten the surface of the affected eye. You may want to add a couple of ice cubes to the remedy to further cool the teabags and provide relief from the range of symptoms associated with corneal damage.
- Place the fresh teabags in a cup of warm water and steep for a couple of minutes.
- Take the wet teabags and strain gently before placing them on the ice cubes.
- Once the teabags are cool enough, place them on the affected eyes and leave on for up to 15 minutes.
- This allows the teabags to act and provide relief.
- Repeat this procedure at least thrice daily until the cornea is completely healed.
7. Rose Water:
Time Required: 20 Min
What You Need: 1/2 Cup of rose water and sterile cotton wool.
Rose water is used to provide relief from welder’s flash by eliminating the pain and lowering the inflammation levels in the affected eye. Its soothing properties help relax the eye muscles and this goes a long way in reducing the itchiness. Rose water also has excellent moisturizing properties for the skin that surrounds the eyes. Use cotton wool to dab the remedy as indicated below; avoid splashing the rose water directly on the eyes to prevent further irritation.
- Soak a piece of sterile cotton wool in the rose water for a minute.
- Take the wet cotton wool and dab it on the eyes to get relief.
- Repeat this procedure twice daily until the symptoms of welder’s flash reduce to allow normal vision and painless eye movement.
8. Banana Eye Mask:
Time Required: 30 Min
What You Need: 1 Ripe banana, bowl and spoon, cotton wool and warm water. A dash of almond oil (optional).
A banana eye mask is a simple and effective way to treat welder’s flash. This is because bananas are extremely rich in Vitamin B2 that is essential for healthy eyes. This vitamin goes a long way in reducing the inflammation while allowing the eyes to rest and heal. Additionally, the application of the banana on the skin around the eyes helps nourish and moisturize it. Almond oil is an optional addition to this remedy, but is recommended because it is rich in Vitamin E that helps lubricate the eyes and prevent dryness. This combined remedy is ideal for reversing the damage to the cornea. Prepare the eye mask as follows.
- Peel the banana and cut into chunky pieces in a bowl.
- Using a spoon, mash the ripe banana until you have a paste-like substance that is easy to use.
- Add a few drops of the almond oil to the mashed banana.
- Apply a generous amount of the banana and almond mixture on your closed eyes.
- Massage as gently as you can for about 5 minutes.
- Leave the remedy on for another 10 minutes before wiping off using cotton wool soaked in warm water.
- Use this remedy at least twice daily until the eyes resume normal functioning.
9. Preventive Measures to Avoid Welder’s Flash:
- Always wear safety goggles whenever you are handling equipment that emits UV rays. This means getting a welder’s mask during welding.
- Wear sunglasses if spending time in the outdoors. Ideally, these glasses ought to protect the eyes from UVA and UVB radiation (types of UV rays).
- Avoid using contact lenses if they cause eye irritation and let your optician know this.
Welder’s flash typically heals after a couple of days of using the remedies above. If however, you experience worsening glare, blurred vision that does not ease and increased pain in the eye, you should see an ophthalmologist immediately. The same applies in cases where you are deeply concerned about the health of your eyes. This is very important to prevent permanent scarring of the cornea following overexposure to UV light.