When it comes to welding, one of the most common topics among beginners are the eyes. To be more specific, more often the discussion is around how welding effects the eyes, and “is welding bad for your eyes”? Many confirm that welding contributes to eye strain, but some take it to the extreme and assert that welding will eventually leave you blind, especially if you do not do anything to protect your vision.
So, Is Welding Bad For Your Eyes? Yes, welding can be bad for your eyes, and your eyesight, but it doesn’t have to be. Fumes, flying metal sparks, IR and UV radiation caused by welding are bad your eyes. As long as you take the proper safety measures to protect your eyes, negatively affecting your eyesight will be unlikely.
We owned and operated a Metal Fabrication business for years developing new products in the concrete industry among many other things. We had many employees welding on a daily basis so we are very familiar with welding and the affects it has on your eyes.
Personal safety for not only yourself but also employees was always first and foremost when it came to welding safety and OSHA eye safety requirements. Having said that we will go over the subject below a little more.
Eye injuries are one of the most common among welders, something pretty sad given the fact that they are very preventable in the first place.
Welding can damage our eyes in several ways, including flying debris and UV light, so It’s important that we never weld without a helmet on. Being in a hurry and complacent about not wearing proper safety equipment will get you in trouble and thats often times when a person gets hurt.
If you want to know more about how it affects your eyes and best practices for protecting them then keep reading below.
The Effect Welding Has On Your Eyes
As I briefly mentioned in our quick answer above, welders suffer eye injuries in 3 main ways:
Flying metal sparks and projectiles.
IR and UV radiation.
Fumes that carry or contain particles from the material being welded and electrodes.
Out of these 3, you would think that flying debris is the most dangerous one, but according to statistics, most people injure their eyes because of the intense radiation that a welding arc produces. Fumes affecting the eyes can be eliminated with the proper ventilation.
That’s right: you are more likely to injure your eyes by looking at bright light without any eye protection than by your eye being hit by hot particles. This is the reason why just wearing clear protective goggles isn’t enough if you want to keep your eyesight intact. You need to wear a welder’s helmet to really protect yourself.
When it comes to injury caused by hot metal and flying debris, the damage caused by these kinds of things is often very painful, but they tend to cause only temporary injuries.
In fact, the hospital will be the ones to tell you if your eyes will have any sort of long term issue. In 90% of cases, this doesn’t happen, and people can go back to welding in about 1 week. There is the chance that your eyes might develop cataracts or other kinds of serious eye problems that might affect your vision long term.
But serious eye injuries caused by debris are actually less likely when welding. More common are injuries caused by IR and UV radiation. In fact, many statistics suggest that more than 80% of eye related injuries caused by welding are caused by the intense light and not flying molten particles like many people might think.
What is Welders Flash or Photokeratitis?
We welders have several names for these kinds of UV and IR related injuries. The most common ones include “Welder’s Flash” “Arc Eye” among others. These are all the same thing: damage to the cornea caused by UV radiation.
Welder’s Flash, also known as Photokeratitis, is usually noticed several hours after being sustained, and just as you might imagine, it’s a very painful injury. The symptoms usually consist of red, bloodshot eyes as if you had conjunctivitis, teary eyes, decreased ability to see during the daylight, and obviously pain.
Thankfully, as scary as this might seem, most Photokeratitis injuries are temporal, and any symptoms tend to be temporary. Over 90% of people will recover fully, but again, it’s important that you go to an ophthalmologist so that they can check your eyes more clearly.
They are the ones most qualified to help you with this injury. Most likely, you will be prescribed some eye drops, but there’s also the chance that more complicated solutions will be suggested.
Tips To Protect Your Eyes When Welding
Now that I have talked a bit about how welding can affect your eyes, it’s now time to tell you the best ways to actually protect them.
Proper Eye Protection Equipment
As you probably know already, everyone must wear safety equipment while welding, including, but not limited to, a welder jacket, leather boots, and most importantly, a welder’s helmet.
Getting a decent helmet is going to be the best decision that you make if you are going to be doing this long term. Just wearing goggles is NOT enough for proper eye protection. These helmets tend to feature auto dimming that will automatically darken the visor when the helmet detects the bright flash of arc welding. They are so convenient and a must buy for any self respecting welder.
These helmets tend to be on the pricier side, especially the ones worth a damn. If you have the budget, I highly recommend that you purchase a Lincoln Electric Welding Helmet. They are one of the most respected brands making helmets today, and I especially appreciate how comfortable most of their models feels when worn for long periods of time.
The only problem of this brand is that they make high-end stuff and so the prices reflect that, but if you really care about your eye safety and are going to be welding long term, then you can’t go with their products.
Those people who are on a budget will prefer buying a special welding mask that protects against UV rays. These are much cheaper than a helmet, and while they won’t protect the eyes as well, they will do a much better job than wearing goggles, or worse, wearing no eye protection at all.
How To Treat Welders Flash
However, there are some times where injury is simply unavoidable. If you tend to weld often and for any reason can’t use any protection on your eyes, then you are eventually going to suffer from Welder’s Flash.
When this happens, there are a few things that you can do in order for the soreness and pain to go away.
Over the Counter Eyedrops or Dilating Eyedrops
One of these things is using eye drops. These can be over the counter or prescription, and they work by lubricating the eye, which in turn helps reduce pain and inflammation. The prescription eye drops go a step further by dilating them and actually relaxing the eye muscles. This is considered the best eye drops for these kinds of injuries, but you need to consult with your doctor to prescribe them to you.
Home Remedies For Welders Flash
If you don’t want to use eye drops, you could always use home remedies that many have found relief with.
Every seasoned welder has a story of using tea bags or even aloe vera to treat the redness, and I have tried them myself! It really works, plus using home remedies have the added benefit of being less expensive and immediate relief should you have what you need on hand.
Tea Bags For Welders Flash
The home remedy that I most recommend that you use is tea bags. You are going to get a bag of black or green tea, and you are going to lay down and apply the tea bags to your eyes, just as if you are dealing with cucumbers. The nutrients found in the tea will do a good job of soothing your eyes. This should be done everyday before going to sleep for about 1 week. If you do so, you are going to notice that your eyes don’t burn as much after a day or two.
To Sum It Up
Don’t be lazy or cheap, get a good welders helmet like the one mentioned above. Yes welding can be bad for your eyes but if you do things right you should be able to avoid injury. Make sure you have proper ventilation from fumes and have a good pair of tight sealing safety glasses. There is nothing worse than getting side lined from work for a weak. Or keeping you from your projects or hobbies because you were in “to much of a hurry” to complete a certain task.
You know the old saying, “hindsight is 20/20” well don’t be kicking yourself saying “if I only would have (enter your answer here” should have taken that extra minute to put the helmet on or “enter your