What Happens if You Accidentally Look at a Welding Arc?

Like lightning, it is disturbing to the eyes when they directly contact a welding arc. Whenever you walk close to a welder’s workplace, your eyes keep blinking; they can’t stand the solid bluish light that results from the process. But what happens if you accidentally look at a welding arc with your naked eyes?

Accidentally looking into the welding arc can damage your eyes. The damage can be permanent or reversible depending on the number of ultraviolet rays and the metal debris that contact the eyes. Although the eye damage due to arc rays is reversible, the pain can be unbearable.

The welding arc releases ultraviolet rays (UV), which can damage your eyes or skin. Within the beams are also metal debris resulting from burning the metals. This debris can get into your eyes and cause irritation that can result in swelling of the eyes. 

People working in the welding industry or in the production of fabricated metals are the most vulnerable to eye damage due to the welding activity. They need to take the necessary precautions to avoid the damage or at least lower the impacts of the damage to their eyes. Stick around to learn more about UV rays, their effects, how to avoid them, and many more.

What Are Ultraviolet Rays?

Ultraviolet rays are electromagnetic radiation from the sun or other human sources such as welding rays or tanning beds. To better understand the UV rays, you should understand what radiation is. Therefore, radiation is the releasing, emission, or transmission of energy in the form of waves through space or along a material medium.

There are various UV rays depending on the energy or the frequency levels. UV rays with the highest frequency occur as the ionizing radiation, meaning it has the strength to remove an electron from an atom or ionize an atom. The high-frequency rays can disorient a gene, causing cancer to the contact person. 

What Are the Types and UVR and Their Effects on Human Eyes?

The effects of the UV rays on your eyes depend on the type of the rays. There are usually three types of UV rays depending on the strength. 

  • UVA
  • UVB
  • UVC

The most destructive UV type to your eyes is the UVC. Even though UVA is the least harmful, its exposure for a long time can lead to a condition called a surfer’s eye. However, all the UV rays are harmful to your eyes. They can all be capable of passing through the cornea to the lens, causing damage to the eye. The only difference is the intensity of the damage. 

What Happens if You Accidentally Look at a Welding Arc?

When you accidentally look directly at the welding arc, you are likely to suffer the following problems;

  1. Reddening of the eyes
  2. Tearing of the eyes and the membranes surrounding them
  3. Watering of the eyes abnormally
  4. Sharp sensitivity of the eyes to light, you cannot look directly to a source of light
  5. Feeling the presence of sand in the eyes
  6. Severe or mild pain in the eyes

Whenever your eyes contact the welding arc, you can experience a few or all of the above signs. The severity of the welding arc’s effects depends on the distance between you and the rays, the duration of exposure, and the penetration angle. 

Below are some of the eye conditions you are likely to develop if you look directly at the welding arc.

Arc Eye (or Welder’s Flash)

Arc eye, also known as photokeratitis, is a condition whereby your eye’s cornea swells due to exposure to the UV rays released during welding. The situation can also come from direct sunlight, tanning salon sunlamps, halogen lamps, or even the sun’s reflection by water or snow.

The arc eye’s symptoms take up to a few hours before appearing. Therefore, you might suffer from the condition for several hours without your knowledge. You should put on the proper gear if you work as a welder or come close to the welding to avoid this severe condition.

Blue Light Hazard

Exposure to the blue light from the welding arc can pose a danger to your eyes. You’ll likely have high chances of damaging your retina; a condition called blue light hazard. If you are exposed to the light for too long or the lights are strong, it’s possible to develop the disease.

Macular Degeneration and Cataracts 

Although these conditions are associated with old age, people who work as welders and are exposed to the UVR from the welding arc have the highest chances of developing the conditions. Macular degeneration does not occur immediately, but the rays accumulate and attack you during your old age.

Unlike macular degeneration, cataracts are not likely to develop due to welding rays but there are still minimal chances. 

What Should You Do if You Accidentally Hurt Your Eyes During Welding?

Before we get into the ways to treat eye problems due to welding arcs, it’s good to find the necessary habits to prevent these accidents. The effective practices you should always consider is putting on the proper attire for the welding environment. The gear should include; welding helmet, mask, goggles, and safety glasses, among others. 

Sometimes, accidents are inevitable. For immediate help, you should have a fully equipped first aid kit. This will help you counter the accident’s effects before they become too intense.

Now, what should you do if your eyes suffer welding arc accidents? If you ever fall victim, the best thing to do is leave your eyes to relax. Get in a dark room and let your eyes remain uninterrupted. I know it can be soothing to rub your eyes and flush any substance in them, but this will cause more trouble. Instead, let them relax, and anything inside will flush itself. 

Also, avoid putting on contact eye lenses, which will heighten the irritation.

As you’ve seen, welding arcs can cause severe damage to your eyes. You should, therefore, try to avoid welding places if you have no business there. However, if you work as a welder or close to the welder’s site, ensure you wear proper attire to prevent direct interaction between your eyes and the rays in the arc.

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