I’ve been welding for over 20 years and one thing I can tell you is that proper eye care is a must. In that time I’ve probably burned my eyes at least seven to ten times. If you’ve ever burnt your eyes it’s a painful experience. The question is, is welding bad for your eyes.
Welding can cause you to get dry and watery eyes from the welding fumes, and arc eyes from too much direct welding radiation without wearing the proper welding helmet shade lens. If burned too many times it could cause partial or permanent blindness.
If you’re a welder or looking to become a welder then its vital you learn about these issues so you can avoid a lot of these problems. So keep reading to learn more so you can avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made.
Is Welding Bad For Your Eyes
If you’re a welder then your eyes are one of the most important thing you need to take care of. If you don’t take care of them over time its going to have some adverse effects and could even lead to blindness.
However if you take care of them and do what I say in this article you won’t have near the problems.
Dry & Watery Eyes
One of the first problems you’ll have to deal with when being a welder in general is that it will dry your eyes out even if you are wearing a welding helmet. This happens when the heat of the weld and a combination of the fumes coming up from the weld get in your eyes.
This will cause your eyes to dry out. I notice this a lot when I haven’t welded in a while and then later on that evening after welding I notice that my eyes feel dry. As you do this over time your body will get used to this and you won’t notice this as much.
If you get to much dirt in your eyes and can cause your eye to get infected and start to water. I had this issue last year and eventually had to go to my doctor.
Overall, these eye issues are very minimal compared to what I’m going to cover next
Arc eye is where you catch too much welding flash from your welder or someone else’s welder and actually burn the outer layer of your eye. Think of it as a sunburn on your eyeball. If you’ve ever had something in your eye you know how uncomfortable that can be.
Arc eye or welders flash feels like someone would throw a handful of hot sand in your eyes and you can’t get it out. What’s actually happening as your eyelid moves up and down is it’s moving over the burnt surface of your eyeball.
If you’ve ever had a sunburn and someone rubs their hand on it you know how painful that can be. The same thing is happening to your eye when it is burnt.
Over the last 20 years I’ve probably burnt my eyes almost a half a dozen times from weld flash. The question is how do you deal with weld flash when you’re eyes are burnt.
How to Deal With Burnt Eyes From Welding
When you burn your eyes from welding flash it’s not like it happens right away. Instead, you’ll tend to notice after you fall asleep typically at 1 or 2am in the morning. Just like a sunburn, it doesn’t show up until the end of the day a lot of times.
When this happens it going to be extremely painful and if you’ve been through this a time or two you’ll know what to look for so you can better prepare for the situation.
Step 1: Set Out a Wash Cloth and Eye Drops
Before you go to bed you’ll want to have things ready just in case this does happen. The last thing you want to do is be looking for your supplies and you can’t open your eyes because of the pain its causing.
So set out a dry washcloth and eye drops. I personally use Rohto Ice when my eyes are burnt. It stings at first but has a nice cooling effect on your eyes afterward that can give some relief.
Side Note: You can take nonprescription eye drops before going to bed as well to help keep your eyes moist.
Important: If you have prescription eye drops for burnt eyes set those out but make sure to use them as your doctor prescribes as these drops can be very powerful and if used too much and could lead to blindness.
Now that you have your supplies ready its time for bed.
Step 2: When Your Eyes Are Burnt Do This
At this point you’re going to wake up at night. It could be 12am it could be 3am. When this does its going to be extremely painful.
The first thing your going to want to do is head to the bathroom where your supplies are and put some eye drops in your eyes to help give a little releif.
You’ll also want to keep your eyes clothes as much as possible. The more you move your eyes up and down the more painful this will be.
Finally, take your washcloth and get it wet with cold water. Then ring it out and fold it in half. You will put this over your eyes once your are back in bed.
Step 3: Sleep
Now that you’re back in bed place the cold wet rag on your eyes. Keep your eyes clothed. The best thing you can do at this point is to fall back asleep. This will help heal the eyes and is the best way to get through the majority of the pain.
The great thing about the eyes is that they tend to heal fast. In most cases, the pain is usually gone by morning. If the pain is not gone then you may need to see your doctor or go to the emergency room in the worst-case scenario.
I’ve known people to burn their eyes extremely bad and you want to do everything in your power to avoid this from happening to you.
Can You Go Blind From Welding?
In extreme cases, you can go blind from burning your eyes too many times, or using prescription eye drops for burnt eyes too much. However, if you are just welding, never burn your eyes, and do proper eye care you’re chances of going blind are much less.
When I weld I typically use eye drops to avoid dry eyes and always make sure I’m not getting welders flash to avoid burning my eyes.
In the next section I’m going to share some tips to help you protect your eyes while welding.
How to Protect Your Eyes While Welding
To help you protect your eyes while welding here are some basic tips I’ve learned over the years to protect myself.
1. Use a Dark Lenses
First, use the darkest lens possible when welding. For this, I recommend a shade 13 lens. If you’re using an auto-dark helmet then turn the setting to the highest possible shade setting. This will also help if you have sensitive eyes.
2. Where a Hood Flap
Next, you’ll want to wear a hood flap. This will help if you have other people welding around you or have a surface that is reflecting a lot of light back.
They make these flaps to go over the top of your helmet and head like the one shown above, and they also make flaps that go on the bottom of your welding helmet to protect you from underneath.
If you don’t have any of these at the time your welding then you could use an old shirt till you get these.
3. Where Darker Colored Shirts
Third, consider wearing darker-colored shirts. When your welding the light will bounce off light-colored material such as a white or yellow shirt. This in turn could be sending that harmful light right up into your helmet.
I have one employee who has sensitive eyes and will often times where black shirts to avoid this issue.
4. Check Your Welding Helmet for Cracks
You’ll also want to check your welding helmets for cracks. Even just a hairline crack will allow light to get through causing you to burn your eyes.
This happened to me once and I ended up welding all day and never suspected that I would have burnt my eyes till I woke up late at night. If this happens you’ll want to buy a new welding helmet.
At the same time if you have an auto-dark welding helmet make sure you check the batteries from time to time because if the helmet does not switch from light to dark it could also burn your eyes.
5. Use Welding Curtains or Blocks
Finally, you’ll also want to consider if other people are welding around you. The light from their weld could be hit you in the wrong ways without you even know it.
For this, you’ll want to have a welding curtain to block harmful rays. If you don’t have this available to you then you could also use a piece of plywood.
What are you doing to protect your eyes from welding flash? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments below.