With the growing number of industries, the demand for welders has also increased in America. On average, 50,000 new jobs are coming each year. Being a high technical expertise and skills job, welding has become one of the most remunerative jobs in the country.
Before you take up welding as a profession, many doubts about your health may arise in your mind, and the foremost is: Can you go blind from welding? It is pertinent to mention that welders may face many risks throughout their career, out of which 60% are related to eye injuries.
Welding may ruin your eyes or could make you blind as well. In this blog, you will learn precisely about the risks associated with your eyes. We’ll also talk about ways you can protect yourself from going blind.
Hazards associated with welding
Being a welder, you can not ignore the health hazards involved in welding. The fumes and gases emitted from the molten zinc or galvanized metal, weld spatters, noise, infrared radiation, ultraviolet rays, thermal burns, etc., may cause serious health hazards.
Welding and your eyes
Many risks are associated with the welding that can be fatal for your eyesight. The usual welding temperature is between 6,500˙F to 10,000˙F. Welders are not more than a few inches away from the welding area. This means the eyes are exposed directly to the welding conditions. Direct exposure to ultraviolet (UV) and infrared rays (IR) emitted from welding arcs, and molten metal could damage your eye and cause vision loss.
Furthermore, the scattered metal particles can significantly contribute to your eye injury while grinding, scraping, brushing, and chipping. Not to forget that brightness, heat, and fumes may also cause specific problems to the eye.
How does welding ruin your eyes?
Adverse impacts of UV and IR radiation on eyes
- UVA wavelength (315-400)nm
- UVB wavelength (280-315)nm
- UVC wavelength (100-280)nm
The cornea blocks UV rays wavelengths shorter than 295 nm from entering the eye, and the crystalline lens blocks those below 400 nm. Although, UVA can be observed in the eye lens.
UV, visible light, and IR radiation can get to the retina, thus causing eye injury or blindness. If you use low-quality welding goggles for welding or ignore having proper PPE, you might get severe damage to the eyes.
Mr. Nathan Farley, who studied Welding at Arkansas State University, Heber Springs (2013), stated:
You can never escape the fact that long-term exposure to UV radiation can cause temporary or complete blindness. Apart from blindness, you may encounter a lot of other eye problems like:
- Pterygium\ Surfer’s eye
- Flash burns\ Welder’s flash
- Blur vision
- Sensation like sand in the eyes
- Tearing, dryness, itching, and bloodshot eyes
Flash burns (Welder’s flash)
Welder’s flash, also known as flash burn, is like sunburn, but it affects your eyes rather than your skin. Flash burn arises when your eyes are exposed to the blazing UV lights. It can occur by all UV rays bands, but mostly welding torches are the common culprit. It is better to know other symptoms as well, which include:
- Severe to mild pain in the eyes
- Bloodshot eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Sensation like sand in the eyes
- Blurred vision
Arc eye can be healed in a day or two without leaving any scar. However, an infection could start if the condition is left untreated and may cause blindness.
Cataracts are the clouding of clear eye lenses. Constantly exposed to infrared rays can damage the eye lens and cause cataracts. The lightning spatters are very bright and can deluge the ability of the eye’s iris and limit the light reaching your eye retina. It is the most common problem usually welders come across. The main symptoms of cataracts are:
- Blur, cloudy or dim vision
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Need extra light to see things clearly
- A constant change in the prescribed number of optical glasses.
- Light sensitivity
- Seeing ‘black halos’ etc.
Arc welding flash is highly bright and dangerous for your eyes. You might get photokeratitis when you are constantly exposed to UV rays. It affects the cornea of your eye and creates temporary pain. Anyone can receive photokeratitis simply by being in the welding area. The symptoms of photokeratitis are:
- Pain in eyes
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
- Sometime cause temporary vision loss
- Sometime cause color changes in vision
- Light Sensitivity
- Eye irritation or twitching
Mostly these symptoms may last for a few hours to a day. The more you are exposed to UV radiation; the more intense your symptoms might be.
Pterygium (Surfer’s eye)
The ultraviolet radiation from welding may also cause a surfer’s eye. The unusual growth of a mucous over the surface of the conjunctiva (membrane covering the white part of the eye) spreads all over the cornea, also known as pterygium. If the pterygium grows, it could block your sight or cause blurred vision. Early symptoms of pterygium are:
- very thin red mucous on your eyes
- Irritation in the eyes
- Swollen eyes
- Dry, itchy, or burning eyes
- Teary eyes
Things to do if you feel any of the above symptoms:
You should see a doctor if you have any of the above conditions. Your doctor may prescribe pain-relieving medication, steroid eye drops, or ointments to ease pain, redness, itching, and swelling. If the symptoms are mild, you probably won’t need any treatment.
Few home remedies to relieve mild symptoms:
- Take a cotton ball, dip it in cold milk, and apply it to the affected area.
- Cover your eyes with a cold pack.
- Refrigerated tea bags are also helpful for itchy, swell, or red eyes.
- Immediately wash your eyes with cold water if your eyes accidentally meet with any welding spark.
However, never rely on self-medication and home remedies only. You should see an ophthalmologist immediately if you feel symptoms like worsening glare, severe pain in the eye, or persistent blurred vision.
Tips to protect Eyes from welding Hazards:
The following tips will help you a lot to protect your eyes from welding hazards:
- Use a welding mask.
- Use safety glasses along with side shields and ANSI-approved welding helmets.
- For arc welding work, a helmet or a hand-held face shield is essential for protection from radiation or molten metal.
- Invest in some high-quality shades, and if you use eyeglasses, use UV-resistant lenses. You won’t regret it.
Said Mr. John Carter, an AWS, ASME, and API certified welder with 40+ years of experience.
Find 3 tips for better visibility during welding in this video:
1- How long does the welder’s eye last?
The welder’s eye, also known as arc eye or flash burn, may last from 24 hours to two days. Your cornea started to heal on its own without leaving any scar. If you feel persistent symptoms of flash eye, you should immediately seek medical assistance.
2- Does welding damage your eyes over time?
Yes, exposure to UV and IR radiation for a long time can cause damage to the eye if you do not wear proper personal protection equipment for welding. Although, some welding hazards will remain after taking all safety measures. However, you can avoid severe damage or vision loss with reasonable precautions.
3- Do eyes heal from welding?
The Cornea is the fastest healing tissue of the body. Yet many eye injuries might take time to heal. So, yes, eye injuries can be healed over time with proper treatment and medical assistance. Many mild eye damage can be treated at home as well.
No doubt welding is a skillful job and a most paying one as well, but if you are worried about the potential dangers of welding or wondering whether you can go blind from welding. Fortunately, there are a lot of precautions that you can take to make sure that you aren’t damaging your health or vision as you weld.
Research has shown that many welders ruin their eyes and even lose their vision with their carefree attitude and ignorance toward proper safety measures. Like all other professionals, you may enjoy your profession with the right gear and precautions.