Welder's flash, or flash burn, is caused when a surge of UV light hits the eye, causing a "sunburn"-like condition on the cornea. Welder's flash is very painful and is often accompanied by watery eyes, swelling, light sensitivity and a gritty feeling under the eyelid. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, corneal wounds typically heal within two days. However, there are measures you must take to prevent further damage to the eye and to speed recovery time.
Close your eye. The first thing you need to do if you have suffered from welder's flash is to close the affected eye and let it rest. Keeping it closed will also protect it from further damage and prevent bacteria from entering the eye.
Place gauze pads in cold water. Wring out excess water and find a comfortable spot to lie back. Place the cold gauze pads over the eye and keep them in place until they are warm. Repeat the process if you are still experiencing pain or swelling. You can also boil a tea bag for two minutes, then place in the refrigerator to cool. Remove the cool tea bags from the water, wring out, and place over the eye as you would the gauze pad.
Place an eye patch over your affected eye to protect it during sleep. Take a dry gauze pad and fold it into a square, and place that over your eye. Cover the gauze pad with the eye patch. This will keep a bit of extra pressure on the eyelid to help keep it closed. If you awaken suddenly during your sleep, you could quickly open your affected eye without thinking to protect it.
Wear dark sunglasses with UV protection when being exposed to sunlight or bright light. Bright light strain can delay healing in an eye with flash burn, as well as cause additional pain. Even if you have the affected eye shut, strain on your good eye can cause strain on the affected eye.
Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory to relieve the pain and swelling associated with the welder's flash burn. Ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen are all choices that will temporarily reduce pain.
See a physician immediately if the pain is severe or your vision is blurred. Both of these symptoms can be indicative of a more serious flash burn that requires immediate medical attention. A doctor may prescribe antibiotic drops for your eye to prevent infection, as well as specialized drops called "atropine" drops which dilate your pupils and help take strain off the eye muscles.
It is important to treat your flash burn immediately, as the sooner you begin treatment, the sooner your eye will heal. Always wear protective helmet gear when welding.
Never rinse or rub the burned eye, as this can cause further corneal damage.