Health conditions

Eye injury – corneal flash burns

Corneal flash burns occur when a very strong light burns the surface of the eye (the cornea).

Causes of corneal flash burns include skiing without glasses, welding arcs and sun lamps.

Usually the symptoms of pain and swelling of the eye with blurred vision occurs approximately 6 to 12 hours after the burn.

Mild flash burns heal quickly and generally there is no long term damage.

Home care

After seeking medical attention for your flash burn, follow these tips during recovery.

Do:

  • wear dark glasses if required, for the next 1 to 2 days
  • if prescribed, use ointments or eye drops as directed and store them in the fridge
  • take simple pain relief like paracetamol, following the directions on the packet or if prescribed other pain relief, take as directed
  • if applied, keep the eye pad or patch on for the next 24 hours
  • attend any follow up appointments.

Do not:

  • rub or scratch the affected eye
  • drive a vehicle or operate machinery if a patch has been placed over the eye
  • wear contact lenses until the eye is healed.

Hints for using eye drops or ointments

  • always wash your hands before applying eye drops or ointments
  • gently pull the lower eyelid down whilst tilting the head backwards
  • drop the liquid or squeeze a small amount of ointment along the inside of the lower lid ensuring that there is no contact between the eye and the bottle or tube.

See your family GP or go to an emergency department if any of the following develop

  • pain increases in the eye despite taking painkillers
  • a change in vision, especially any sudden loss of vision
  • blurred vision or black spots in your vision or blindness
  • a discharge coming from the eye that is blood stained or unusual (increased tear production is normal)
  • fever

Prevention

  • Always wear good eye protection when doing something that is likely to create fine airborne particles such as grinding, drilling, welding or shaving wood. Safety goggles should be close fitting with side shields.
  • Always wear sunglasses that filter ultra violet rays when outdoors in bright sunlight. This includes using protective eye wear when working with sand or cement, participating in snow or water activities or at high altitude.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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