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Corneal Flash Burns

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on May 2, 2022.

What is a corneal flash burn?

A corneal flash burn is caused by too much ultraviolet (UV) light. The cornea is the clear layer of tissue that covers the front of your eye.

Eye Anatomy

What causes a corneal flash burn?

Anything that shines enough UV light may burn your cornea. The following are common causes:

  • Looking directly at or near the sun, especially at higher elevations
  • Sunlight reflecting brightly off sand, snow, or water
  • Bright signs or lamps used in a lab or dental office
  • Bright sparks from welding arc torches
  • Bright lights, such as lasers, halogen lights, or tanning beds

What are the signs and symptoms of a corneal flash burn?

  • Eye pain or pain when you look at light
  • Watery eyes, or a hazy, red, or cloudy eye
  • Swollen or twitching eyelid, or red skin around your eye
  • Eyesight becomes worse

How is a corneal flash burn diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine your eye. He or she will ask what you were doing when your symptoms began. He or she may check your eyelid. You may also need any of the following tests:

  • A slit-lamp test is used to check for injury. A dye may be used to help damage to your cornea show up better.

  • A visual acuity test checks your vision and eye movements.

How is a corneal flash burn treated?

Your signs and symptoms may go away on their own. If they continue, you may need any of the following:

  • Artificial tears are used to keep your eye moist. Ointment is used to soothe and protect your eye. This will decrease your pain and help prevent your eyelid from sticking to your eye.
  • Apply a cool, moist bandage to your eye. Cover the bandage with a small ice pack to decrease pain.
  • An eye patch or shield can protect your eye as it heals.
    Eye Patch Eye Shield
  • Medicines may be given to prevent or treat pain or an eye infection.
  • Surgery may be needed if your corneal flash burn has caused severe damage to your eye. Your healthcare provider may replace your damaged cornea with a new one.

How can I help prevent a corneal flash burn?

  • Wear sunglasses and a hat when you are outside. Check your sunglasses for a label that says the sunglasses block UV light. Choose sunglasses that protect as much of your eyes as possible. Do not look directly into or near the sun. Wear a hat or cap with a wide brim to shade your eyes from sunlight.
  • Wear goggles in a tanning bed. This will decrease the amount of UV light that reaches your eyes while you tan.
  • Wear proper work equipment. Goggles and helmets will help protect your eyes if you work with welding tools.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have severe pain.
  • Your eye is leaking blood or pus.
  • Your vision suddenly becomes worse.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have pain after 2 days of treatment.
  • Your vision does not return to normal.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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