What is Arc-Eye? Cause, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

We are often asked not to look directly at any bright source of light. Apart from seeing spots, direct rays from any kind of light source contain harmful radiation, which may cause severe damages to our eyes immediately. 

There are several layers in our eyes, and each part of them has its own function. The Cornea is the first layer of our eyes, which receives the light. It is a thin and transparent layer of tissue and acts as a protecting shield to our eye. Arc-Eye or Welder’s Eye is a Cornea related medical condition. 

Below you will find everything you need to know about Arc-Eye.

Table of Contents

What is Arc Eye?

Arc-Eye is a painful eye-condition in which our Cornea becomes injured due to direct penetration of intense light. The cornea gets inflamed with bright UltraViolet (UV) rays. It results in irritation, headache and much more severe eye condition. Arc-eye usually occurs when our eyes are not sufficiently protected to eliminate hazardous rays. It is known as many other different terms. Such as:

  • Flash burns
  • Ultraviolet (UV) burn.
  • Photokeratitis
  • Welder’s Flash
  • Welder’s Eye
  • Snow Blindness

According to research by ProGARM, “…57% of electrical workers had the first-hand experience of an Arc Flash incident having experienced or seen someone else suffer a strike during their career.”


Dealing with welding, lasers and fibre optics can often lead to eye and health-related problems. Handling them with caution is a necessary step. Wearing protective gear is compulsory.

To know more about avoiding risky workplace situations that may cause permanent eye damage check out our Workplace Health and Safety training course.  This course will warn you and teach you about the possible hazards that you may face and protection against them.

Welding and Eye Hazard

In a welding related workplace, 25% of the injuries are eye related. Welding workers are continuously working with harmful rays and machines. Often workers do not find it necessary to wear safety goggles and necessary PPE due to discomfort and unawareness. This is a compulsory step to wear proper safety dress for workers who are working with hazardous equipment. A number of welding related injuries can happen from which the most common are:

1. Being struck by flying particles and chipped slag

2. Eye burn due to exposure to radiation from ultra violet ray (UV), infrared radiation and intense blue light.

3. Irritation and burn from harmful fumes and chemicals.

Its is mandatory to educate workers who work with welding machines about the danger and how to prevent it.

Causes of having Arc-Eye

Arc Eye can happen due to sudden and direct exposure to an extremely bright light source, resulting in the following situations.

  • It may occur while handling the Welding machine. Welders are more frequent to have this condition as the lights from the welding machine are exposed to their eyes, for which Arc-Eye is also commonly known as Welder’s Eye. People with welders occupation should know more about workplace hazards and take necessary precautions.
  • Staring directly at Sunlight. Sun is the most significant brightest source of light and contains many harmful rays. Looking directly at the sun is a reason for burning your cornea.
  • From UV light-emitting sources, such as Sun lamps in the tan saloon, halogen lamps etc.
  • Reflection of Sun from snow or water. Fresh snow can reflect around 80% of the rays that fall on it. Arc Eye is through the snow at more common snow-capped high altitudes.
  • Huge floodlights with high spectrum.
  • Photographers Floodlight and Camera Flash.
  • Solar Eclipse.

What are the Symptoms of Arc Eye?

Many times the symptoms of arc-eye don’t show at the beginning. But there is a gradual increase in the symptoms. The arc-eye symptoms depend on the intensity of the light, time of exposure and the type of light source. There are different ranges of symptoms that come with Arc Eyes:

  • Bloodshot or red Eyes
  • Watering of eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Mild to severe Headache
  • Feeling of having dirt in the eye.
  • Unable to open eyes.

How is Arc Eye Diagnosed?

How is Arc Eye Diagnosed

Our eyes are very sensitive, so a small kind of irritation can lead to a severe problem if not treated well. If you feel any of the symptoms accompanied by headaches, you have to take immediate medical care for your eyes.

Furthermore, your eyes may also contain a foreign body particle, which may turn the condition even more severe.

In case you are sure that you caught the Arc eye due to light exposure, do not apply water to the eyes for soothing this may cause further damage. Use cold packs over the eyelid till you get any medical help. 

Contact 111 immediately if the exposure was very severe.

The optometrist is an eye specialist. They may discuss your eye and health history, test your eyes and talk about the situation how the light was exposed. They are likely to follow the following steps to diagnose your eyes.

  • Eye doctor does a thorough check-up of your vision, eyelid, pupil and other parts of the eye.
  • To recognise further damages, a doctor may use an anaesthetic drop to numb your eye for a while to thoroughly check all your eyes’ details.
  • Doctors use a staining dye on your eyes Fluorescein, which makes the eye orange or yellow for a while. Blue light is followed by to trace the position and depth of the damage. The dye is not harmful and goes away within an hour or two with tears.

What are the Possible Treatments of Arc Eye?

Curing Arc-Eye also depends on the severity of the exposure. But proper treatment and taking medication from an expert is a necessary step. Here are the possible steps to cure arc-eye:

  • Eye dilating drops. This helps eye muscles to relax and also soothes pain and irritation. The pupil may look bigger as long as the drop is taking action, which is seven to eight hours.
  • To reduce inflammation, the Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) eye drop is used.
  • A doctor may give an oral painkiller if there is severe pain.
  • A specialist may clean and do a dressing on your eyes for a while so that there is no excessive pressure on the eye and remove foreign particles that may cause infection.
  • The doctor prescribes antibiotics and ointment to avoid any infection.
  • The doctor may want to check on the eye after twenty-four to forty-eight hours to see the healing progress and clean up the dressing if there is any.

With proper treatment and medication, typical cases of Arc-Eye heals in 3-4 days. Arc-Eye doesn’t leave any scars with adequate treatment.

How to use eye-drops and ointment:

  • Clean your hands before applying the ointment or eye drop.
  • Place your fingers on the cheek and pull your lower eyelid down.
  • Spread the medicine on the inside of the lower eyelid. Make sure your fingers don’t touch the eyes.
  • Always keep the medicine in a cool place like the refrigerator.
  • You should continue the medication until the eyes are healed.

Self- Help

  • You can use cold packs over eyelids to soothe pain and irritation.
  • Remove contact lenses if you are wearing any during the exposure and avoid wearing any during the Arc-Eye treatment. 
  • Wear sunglass if you feel light sensitivity
  • Take the given dose of painkillers and medication regularly.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible to stay away from the sun.
  • Do not stress your eyes by watching television or reading.

Get Certified at Workplace Health and Safety
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Get Certified at Workplace Health and Safety
This course includes a number of case studies and practical exercises, designed to equip you with real-world, practical skills and techniques that can be applied to a wide range of work settings.

Natural Sources to Sooth Arc-Eye

There are lots of natural ingredients which helps soothe arc-eye pain and also helps in quick healing.

1. Milk: 

Milk helps lubricate the eyes and decrease pain. Milk contains lactoferrin, epithelial growth factor (EGF), oligosaccharides, and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, which can reduce dryness in the eyes and also contributes to healing the cornea tissues.

To take advantage of the milk, dip a clean cotton ball in the milk. Apply the soaked cotton balls directly to the infected eye and leave it for a few minutes. After a while wipe the eye with a clean and wet cloth. Repeat this process twice a day for good results.

2. Potatoes

Potatoes are cooling ingredients and they help reduce inflammation around the affected eye. They also help reduce irritation and itchiness of the eyes. Enzymes in the potato also help decrease any kind of swollen parts of the eye. 

For the potato treatment you will need, 1 potato, wash clothes and water. Peel the potato and grate it. Soak the cloth in water and drain off the excess water. Place the grated potato in two lumps on the cloth and keep them 1-2cm apart from each other. Wrap the cloth around the potato lumps properly and place the cloth in the refrigerator until it is cool. Take out the cloth from the refrigerator and put the cloth on the eye, one lump on each eye. Treat the eye like that for fifteen minutes and repeat the process two times a day.

3. Green Tea and Chamomile Tea Bags

Green Tea and Chamomile Tea does an excellent work of soothing inflamed eyes. Green tea is a great source of antioxidants (tannins) that helps cornea related eye problems. Chamomile tea contains antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and healing properties that can cool down inflammations, irritating skins and also reduce eye problems like blocked tear ducts, conjunctivitis, and extremely dry eyes.

Place used teabags of green tea or chamomile tea in the refrigerator so that it cools down. Place the tea bags on the affected eyes for 15 minutes and for twice a day. You can also drink the tea to heal arc-eye and also to make your eyes healthy.

4. Cucumber

Cucumber acts as a great cooling agent and helps to soothe dry, inflamed and itchy eyes and it also hydrates the eyes. The cooling effect of cucumber helps get relief from most of the irritation that comes from arc-eye.

Take 2 thick slices of cucumber and cool them in a refrigerator. Place the slices over each eye and leave them like that for ten to fifteen minutes. Repeat this two to three times each day.

5. Banana

Banana is a rich source of vitamin C and potassium which helps in healing fatigued and inflamed eyes. Mash the banana into fine pulp and apply the paste close to the eyelids. Leave it for three to five minutes and softly rinse it off with plain water. You can repeat this process once or twice daily.

6. Rose Water

Rose water has antiseptic properties that help in curing eye related conditions. Eye drops that have rose water in them are found to help reduce dry eye condition and conjunctivitis. Soak a cotton ball with rose water and place them on the eyes. Keep it like this for ten minutes and repeat it twice a day.

7. Aloe Vera Gel

One of the most soothing and cooling agents is aloe vera. Extract pure aloe gel or buy a gel and apply it on the eyes. It will not only reduce irritation but also help heal the eyes and redness as it has anti-inflammatory properties.

8. Castor Oil

Castor oil generates lipid production in the eyes, this keeps the eyes moisturized and reduces dryness. Castor oil helps to reduce the irritation that happens due to arc-eye. Appy drops of castor oil in each eye and repeat it  once or twice a day.


arc-eye prevention

Closing Remark

There are many cases of eye injuries in workplaces; several of them are often related to radiation and lights. But taking an injury lightly leads to severe consequences. Even if you know how to treat an Arc-Eye, it is necessary to get treatment from experts and follow their advice.

October 25, 2023
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