What are the Long-Term Effects of Welding on the Eyes?

One of the things you probably already know about welding is that it makes use of heat that is generated by electricity to melt metal. However, welding also creates sparks that are so bright that they can easily hurt the eyes. That is exactly the reason why welders wear eye protection to keep their eyes protected. But, even if welders protect their eyes, what are the long-term effects of welding on the eyes?

Arguably the most common long-term effect of welding on the eyes is arc eyes, which is the inflammation of the clear tissue over the eyeball or the cornea. This is caused by exposure to UV rays that degenerate the thin tissue. Other effects include blue light hazard, macular degeneration, and cataracts.

Like a lot of the different manual labor jobs that rely on a person’s body as the capital, welding is pretty dangerous to a person’s health, especially when it comes to the eyes. That is why welders need proper training not only in terms of their overall knowledge of the field but also in terms of the safety risks involved. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to make sure that you wear the proper protective gear.

How Dangerous Is Welding To The Eyes?

When it comes to welding, one of the things that are taught to prospective welders quite early is the danger that comes with welding. Because welding involves playing with heat and electricity that create sparks when they come into contact with metal, it is safe to say that this is a very dangerous craft that requires welders to know the basic safety precautions.

However, not a lot of people know about the fact that, even when you are wearing the right gear when welding, there are still dangers that are associated with this craft. And because the eyes are some of the most exposed parts of the body when it comes to welding due to how sensitive the eyes are to light, there are certain eye risks associated with welding. In that regard, how dangerous is welding is to the eyes?

In the US alone, there are 2.4 million ocular injuries per year. Not surprising is the fact that the victims get these eye injuries on a regular basis while working in the field in a lot of different industries. And that has contributed to the fact that eye injuries are actually well-publicized when it comes to industrial protection.

Of course, among all of the different occupations that regularly contribute to the number of eye injuries every year, welding is at the top. The reason why welding is at the top is that there are plenty of different factors that can easily cause eye injuries when you are working as a welder. And because of how industrialization is still increasing in the world today, the number of eye injuries associated with welding continues to increase.

In a research conducted regarding the ocular injuries among industrial workers, it was discovered that flying metal chips account for the most eye injuries among welders. Meanwhile, arc rays account for about 31.85% of the total eye injuries among the 500 welders who were studied in that research.

That said, it is clear that the statistics show how dangerous welding can be to the eyes, especially when you are not wearing the right protective gear and if you don’t know the proper safety precautions required when you are welding. And even if you do make sure that you are well-protected, there are still some long-term effects that are associated with welding.

What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Welding On The Eyes?

As mentioned, there are long-term effects on the eyes when it comes to welding. Let’s look at some of them:

Arc Eye

Arc eye is the most common long-term eye effect associated with welding. Also called welder’s eye (because of how welders are the ones who are often at risk to this effect), arc eye is simply the inflammation of the clear tissue over the eyeball or the cornea. What causes this is the ultraviolet or UV radiation that degenerates the thin tissue that is over the eyes. As such, this can cause damage to the ocular surface.

Some of the most common symptoms associated with arc eye include excessive watering and blinking. You may also feel a gritty feeling in your eyes and may even feel a bit of pain whenever you are looking at lights that are brighter than normal. There are some that may experience blurred vision as well.

Welders can also experience temporary blindness due to the bright lights generated by the welding arc. This happens because the iris muscles do not close the eye’s pupil fast enough to react to the light generated by the welding arc. As such, this does not stop the light from accessing the retina.

There are times when people don’t often feel the symptoms of arc flash right away. That’s because the symptoms may occur hours after the interaction with the UV light. But it isn’t uncommon for a few milliseconds of exposure to UV light to affect your eyes in a negative way. 

Blue Light Hazard

On top of arc eye, there are also instances when blue light hazard can occur among welders. That is because welding regularly produces visible light or blue light, which can cause retinal damage that is often called blue light hazard.

For you to understand that, you need to know that electromagnetic radiation has wavelengths that are somewhere between 400 to 500nm, which are often called high-frequency light waves. These light waves can do some serious damage to the retina. And the problem is that blue light hazard can cause permanent damage to the retina and may even lead to blindness.

Macular Degeneration and Cataracts

Finally, we have macular degeneration and cataracts, which are quite common among welders as well. Macular degeneration and cataracts are long-term effects that welding has on the eyes, as the damage should be minimal but steady. So, the longer you have been welding, the higher the chances of suffering from macular degeneration and cataracts. 

The reason why welding can cause macular degeneration and cataracts is that UV light exposure for an extended period can steadily degenerate the health of the eyes. Meanwhile, cataracts aren’t always common, but they can still happen to welders who have been welding for a long time. Cataracts can be preventable, but they can cause blindness if you weren’t able to seek medical care right away.

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