Flash Burns are an injury to the eyes that occurs when you look at the ultra-bright light created by a welding arc, without the protection of shielded welding goggles or a shielded welding mask. Flash Burns can cause your eyes to tear and water uncontrollably, blur your vision and create spots in your vision, in addition to creating an overall feeling of discomfort with your eyes, and some pain. Flash Burns can also make your eyes very sensitivity to light.
Staring at the Sun
The intense “flash” of a welding arc is actually ultraviolet light (yes, the same light radiating from the sun – i.e. looking at a welding arc is like starring at the sun). The intensely bright light emanating from a welding arc essentially overwhelms your eyes (which consist of mostly muscle tissues), causing the corneas to swell and the pupils to constrict, which affects your vision, and leads to the symptoms described above.
Generally speaking, the ill effects of Flash Burns don’t last for more than a couple of days. Ultimately, there is no “cure” for Flash Burns, it really comes down to resting your eyes. There are some treatments that can help lessen the impact of the often painful and very uncomfortable symptoms associated with Flash Burns. Always keep in mind that if left untreated (failing to rest your eyes), Flash Burns can cause eye infections, and ultimately lead to vision loss.
Consult a Doctor
Before you take any medication or put ANYTHING IN YOUR EYES—consult a doctor. Ideally, your first step in the effective treatment of Flash Burns should be to see an ophthalmologist.
There are tons of “home remedy” treatments floating around online that suggest you should put things such as potatoes, rose-water, warm milk, etc… into your eyes. This is a big NO-NO! Your eyes are highly susceptible to infection, and placing foreign objects in your eyes may introduce bacteria, which can seriously compound your Flash Burns with a nasty eye infection. Bottom line, talk to a qualified ophthalmologist first, they may prescribe a topical antibiotic ointment and pain killers, or suggest an over-the counter alternative.
Rest Your Eyes
Prescription and over the counter ointments and painkillers, however, really just treat the symptoms, and relieve some of the Flash Burn induced discomfort. The best course of action to heal your Flash Burns is to stay in low light, refraining from watching television (the dramatic changes in light serve to further irritate your eyes) and generally rest your eyes.