Welding and the eye

alias: Ophthalmia photoelectrica, arc eye, welder´s eye, keratoconjunctivitis photoelectrica, intensive UV light and the eye, the eye and snow, the eye and water surface, the eye and solarium

Almost everybody who sometimes welds does know it. Lifting the welding helmet during the welding for a moment to see better is enough to cause the problem. After a few hours (typically 6-8 hours) comes uncomfortable feeling of the sand in the eyes.  If the welder, or his helper lookes at the electric arc longer, instead of feeling of the sand in the eyes comes intensive sharp pain. So intensive, that man can open his eyes only with difficulty. His eyes are tearing. He avoids light. This condition brings him usually to the doctor (although without the help of the other person it is almost impossible). Interesting is that because od the evolution of the condition the time when he comes to the doctor is often between one and two o´clock a.m. Yes, this condition can wake both the patient and the doctor up.

The similar difficulties can experience people, who look at the UV lamp during it´s repairing, lift the protective goggles in the solarium, or are exposed for a longer time to the bright sunlight reflected from the snow or water surface.

The ordinary UV radiation just more intensively “sunbathing” our eyes is responsible for all of the above mentioned conditions. Sunburn of the skin experienced almost everybody. The same can happen to our cornea and conjunctiva. And because the cornea is the most sensitive part of our body, the pain can be really bad.

In the eye is most of the UV radiation absorbed by it´s superficial structures – the cornea and the conjunctiva. Only lesser part gets to the crystalline lens and the retina. So the damage is usually also only superficial. Localized in the part of the eye which is not protected against the light by eyelids. This superficial damage heals quite quickly – it takes usually around 8-14 hours. But it depends on the severity of the condition.

The treatment is usually only symptomatic – to relieve of the pain. The eye oinment or lubricants and common painkillers are used. Good is also to fall asleep and spend the healing time sleeping. If the condition doesn´t turn better in 8-14 hours, than is better to see the doctor again.

arc eye

In the pictures we can see the superficial damage of the eye by UV light after instillation of the fluorescein. The part of the eye which is not covered by the eyelids is affected. This particular case was the consequence of 30s look at succesfully repaired UV lamp.

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