what causes arc eye and how can it be prevented 1
what causes arc eye and how can it be prevented 1

Arc eye, also known as welder’s flash or photokeratitis, is a painful condition that occurs when the eyes are exposed to bright ultraviolet light. This intense light energy damages the outer layers of the eye, resulting in symptoms such as extreme pain, redness, sensitivity to light, and even temporary vision loss. Luckily, there are simple measures you can take to prevent arc eye and protect your eyes from this potentially debilitating condition. By wearing proper eye protection, like goggles or a welding helmet with a shaded lens, you can shield your eyes from harmful UV rays and avoid the painful consequences of arc eye.

What Causes Arc Eye And How Can It Be Prevented?

What is Arc Eye?

Arc Eye, also known as welder’s flash or photokeratitis, is a condition that affects the eyes after exposure to intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This condition occurs when the outer layer of the cornea, also known as the epithelium, becomes inflamed and irritated. It can be incredibly painful and can leave individuals with temporary vision loss. Understanding the causes and symptoms of Arc Eye is essential for taking necessary precautions to prevent this condition. Let’s delve deeper into the definition and symptoms of Arc Eye.


Arc Eye refers to the inflammation and irritation of the cornea due to exposure to intense UV radiation. It is a condition commonly experienced by individuals working in occupations or participating in recreational activities that involve exposure to welding arcs, bright lights, or direct sunlight without adequate protection. The condition is caused by damage to the corneal cells, leading to painful symptoms that require immediate medical attention.


Arc Eye presents various symptoms that can significantly affect an individual’s vision and overall well-being. Some of the common symptoms of Arc Eye include:

  1. Eye pain: Individuals experiencing Arc Eye commonly report intense eye pain, which can vary in severity. This pain can become more severe when attempting to open or close the eyes.

  2. Redness and swelling: The eyes may appear red and swollen due to the inflammation of the cornea. This can cause discomfort and make it difficult to keep the eyes open.

  3. Light sensitivity: Arc Eye often leads to increased sensitivity to light, making it uncomfortable for individuals to be exposed to any form of bright light.

  4. Excessive tearing: Excessive tearing is a typical symptom of Arc Eye. The eyes may produce tears in an attempt to lubricate and soothe the irritated cornea.

  5. Blurred or hazy vision: Arc Eye can cause temporary vision problems, including blurred or hazy vision. This can make it challenging to focus on objects and perform daily tasks.

Causes of Arc Eye

Arc Eye can occur as a result of various factors and activities that expose the eyes to intense UV radiation. Understanding the causes is crucial for implementing preventive measures that can reduce the risk of developing Arc Eye. Let’s explore the different causes of this condition.

Exposure to UV radiation

Exposure to intense UV radiation, such as that emitted during welding, is one of the primary causes of Arc Eye. Unless proper eye protection is worn, the UV rays can reach the eyes and damage the cornea, leading to the development of this condition.

Exposure to welding arcs

Professionals working in welding and metal fabrication industries are at a high risk of developing Arc Eye. The intense light produced during welding arcs emits UV radiation that can severely damage the eyes if protective eyewear is not worn consistently.

Exposure to bright lights

Repeated exposure to bright lights, such as those in a photography studio or concert venue, can also lead to Arc Eye. The excessive amount of UV radiation emitted by these lights can cause damage to the eyes and result in this condition.

Direct sunlight exposure

Spending prolonged periods in direct sunlight without adequate eye protection can increase the risk of developing Arc Eye. The sun’s UV rays can cause inflammation and damage to the cornea, leading to the symptoms associated with this condition.

Reflection of light from water or snow

When sunlight reflects off water or snow, it intensifies the UV radiation exposure. This reflected light can be harmful to the eyes and contribute to the development of Arc Eye. It is important to wear UV-protective eyewear in outdoor environments with high reflection.

Incorrect use of tanning beds

Tanning beds emit UV radiation, similar to the sun. Prolonged exposure to the UV rays in tanning beds, especially without proper eye protection, can lead to the development of Arc Eye.

Exposure to certain medical procedures

Some medical procedures, such as certain types of eye surgeries and examinations that use UV light, can put individuals at risk for developing Arc Eye. It is crucial for medical professionals and patients to take appropriate precautions during these procedures to minimize the risk.

Exposure to certain industrial processes

Certain industrial processes, such as the use of UV lamps or curing lights, can expose workers to high levels of UV radiation. Without adequate eye protection, employees can develop Arc Eye as a result of prolonged exposure to these industrial processes.

Exposure to certain chemicals

Exposure to certain chemical substances, such as certain drugs or cleaning agents, can make the eyes more susceptible to UV damage. These chemicals can alter the protective mechanisms of the cornea, leaving it vulnerable to UV radiation and increasing the risk of Arc Eye.

Exposure to certain sports activities

Engaging in sports activities that involve bright lights or sunlight exposure, such as skiing or snowboarding, can also contribute to the development of Arc Eye. Individuals participating in these activities should ensure they wear appropriate eye protection to reduce the risk.

Prevention of Arc Eye

While Arc Eye can be severely painful and distressing, it is a preventable condition. Taking proactive measures to protect your eyes from UV radiation can significantly reduce the risk of developing Arc Eye. Here are some essential prevention strategies to consider:

Wearing proper eye protection

Investing in high-quality and properly fitted safety goggles or glasses that block UV radiation is essential for anyone exposed to potential sources of UV rays. These protective eyewear should meet industry standards and be worn consistently during activities that pose a risk of Arc Eye.

Using appropriate welding helmets

Professionals working in welding and metal fabrication industries should use appropriate welding helmets that provide full coverage and have tinted lenses. These helmets shield the eyes from harmful UV radiation emitted during welding arcs, mitigating the risk of developing Arc Eye.

Using tinted or polarized sunglasses

When engaging in outdoor activities or spending time in environments with significant sunlight exposure, wearing tinted or polarized sunglasses can greatly reduce the UV radiation reaching the eyes. Look for sunglasses with proper UV protection coatings to ensure maximum eye safety.

Limiting exposure to bright lights

Avoiding prolonged exposure to bright lights whenever possible can help mitigate the risk of developing Arc Eye. When working or participating in activities with bright lights, use proper eye protection, such as goggles or sunglasses, to minimize UV radiation exposure.

Avoiding direct sunlight without protection

Direct sunlight contains harmful UV radiation that can damage the eyes. To prevent Arc Eye, it is crucial to wear appropriate eye protection, such as UV-blocking sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats, when spending time outdoors, particularly during peak sun hours.

Using proper eye protection during medical procedures

For both medical professionals and patients, wearing protective eyewear during medical procedures that involve UV light is crucial. This measure can significantly reduce the risk of Arc Eye and ensure eye safety during these procedures.

Implementing safety measures in industrial processes

Companies and industries using UV lamps, curing lights, or other processes that emit UV radiation should implement strict safety measures. This may include providing employees with proper eye protection and ensuring that workspaces are adequately shielded to minimize the risk of Arc Eye.

Using appropriate eye protection in sports

Individuals engaging in sports activities with potential UV radiation exposure should use appropriate eye protection. Look for protective goggles or sunglasses specifically designed for sports to ensure optimal eye safety during these activities.

Avoiding incorrect use of tanning beds

To prevent Arc Eye, it is crucial to avoid the incorrect use of tanning beds. Always wear proper eye protection specifically designed for tanning bed use to block UV radiation and protect the eyes from potential damage.

Taking breaks and rest periods during activities that strain the eyes

Engaging in activities that strain the eyes for prolonged periods, such as reading or using electronic devices, can increase the risk of eye fatigue and make the eyes more susceptible to UV damage. Taking regular breaks and rest periods can help alleviate eye strain and reduce the risk of developing Arc Eye.

In conclusion, Arc Eye is a painful condition that can significantly impact an individual’s vision and overall well-being. By understanding the causes and symptoms of Arc Eye, as well as implementing preventive measures outlined above, you can safeguard your eyes from this condition. Remember to prioritize eye protection, avoid extended exposure to UV radiation, and take necessary breaks during activities that strain your eyes. Your eyes are precious, so make sure to give them the care and attention they deserve to maintain optimal eye health.

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Jason Griffin
I'm Jason Griffin, an avid welder and welding enthusiast. I've been welding for over 15 years and have experience in various welding techniques. I started my own welding business, Ricky's Welding, in 2012. I specialize in MIG welding and am passionate about helping others learn and perfect their welding skills. I'm also a certified welding inspector with a degree in welding technology. I'm always striving to stay up-to-date on the latest welding technology and techniques, and I'm dedicated to helping my clients achieve their welding goals. I'm also a big fan of sharing my knowledge and experiences with others, which is why I co-created the website Ricky's Welding. It's a great resource for welders of all levels, offering helpful tips and tricks, comprehensive reviews of welding products, and more.