Corneal flash burns: Painful, but treatable

This post is about a relatively common eye condition that has a number of different everyday monikers, including “corneal flash burns,” “sunburned eyes” and “welder’s flash.”

Photo by: earl53

It also goes by another term, “snow blindness,” which I discussed in a post last winter, but in this post we are going to look the condition’s other causes and how it’s treated.

The medical terms for the condition are probably a bit less familiar than those I mentioned above; they include “photokeratitis,” “niphablepsia” and “keratoconjunctivitis photoelectrica.”  But whatever you call it, you want to avoid it, because it can be very painful and even, in some cases, lead to vision loss.

Corneal flash burns are caused by exposure to bright ultraviolet (UV) light, which can come from a variety of sources, including welding torches, direct sunlight or the sun being reflected off water or snow and tanning lamps or beds.

All of us have probably experienced a variation of the condition, called “flash blindness,” which is what we experience when a flash goes off in our face when we are being photographed. As we all know, our vision is compromised when that occurs, but the condition is temporary.

The symptoms of corneal flash burns usually last longer than those from camera flashes. They are related to the inflammation of the cornea caused by the exposure to UV rays and may include pain, tearing, bloodshot eyes and blurry vision. Pain relievers may be the only treatment required, although in some cases a physician may use numbing or dilating drops and eye coverings, and may prescribe antibiotics to ward off infection, which if it progresses too far, can result in blindness.

Preventing corneal flash burns is a matter of using both common sense and the right eye protection. Whenever we are outside on a sunny day, we should always wear quality sunglasses that block UV rays. This is even more important when we are engaged in activities at high altitudes or where the sun’s reflection can be very problematic, such as on the water or in a desert environment. And the correct eye protection is always necessary when engaged in hazardous activities such as welding and using lasers.

For much more information about the causes, symptoms and treatment of corneal flash burns, you might want to check out this page at emedicinehealth.com.

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  1. Pingback: Protecting Your Hair From Heat Damage | hair and beauty

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