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I'm a hobbyist welder but eyes are really sensitive (dry). Not flashing myself. Help!

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  • I'm a hobbyist welder but eyes are really sensitive (dry). Not flashing myself. Help!

    Hi guys, I'm a first time poster here and I am looking for some help and hope. I have been hobbyist mig welding for the past 5 years or so. I weld very infrequently, no more than once a month, doing amateur automotive restoration type work. My eyes never used to bother me welding before. In the past year, even my infrequent, very short duration welding projects have caused my eyes to really bother me starting several hours after my welding. I get eye pain that is light sensitive, and it will last several days after I have stopped welding. I went out and bought a Miller $250 auto dark helmet so I could easily adjust the darkness to get as dark as I could still barely see, and that did not help at all. I also bought some UV goggles that seal to my face, to wear under my helmet, to make sure stray UV was not leaking around the sides of the mask from off of reflective surface. Finally, I tried using a cloth draped around the mask to seal off any stray light from even entering around the sides of the mask. Nothing has helped and I still end up with very noticeable eye pain even after welding for only a few minutes.

    I do have dry eyes, and the welding does seem to leave me with even drier eyes afterwards. My eyes do get slightly scratchy sometimes for the few days they bother me afterwards, but it does not sound like the "sand in eyes" symptoms of arc burn. I don't wake up in the night from the pain and it never feels extremely gritty, just moreso general pain/feeling of pressure around the eyes that takes several days to go away.

    I have seen several good eye doctors when I have had pain after welding, and they didn't really know why. They said I have no evidence of an arc burn on my eyes and other than being very dry, my eyes are fine. One doctor told me, if welding bothers your eyes, don't weld. Of course that is the most conservative approach, but I really hope I can continue to do the very small amount of welding I do.

    What I don't understand, is that how my eyes can possibly bother me if I am using good quality protective gear, and the welding helmet blocks nearly 100% of UV and IR. What type of light could possibly be getting past my safety gear that would bother me? Like I said I even tried draping a cloth around my helmet, AND wearing UV goggles that seal around my eyes, to be certain that I am not getting flashed from UV bouncing off my clothing, the floor, etc.

    Does anyone else who welds and has very dry eyes, have welding bother their eyes? I would appreciate any input from you guys. There is no way I am getting a flash burn w/ the amount of protective gear I have tried, but there is definitely some way my eyes are light sensitive to some aspect of welding light that is getting past the safety gear.

    I am not normally bothered by any other type of light other than welding. Although my eyes are dry, I am not bothered by bright sunlight or anything like that. I am not dry enough to normally require drops except for long hours in front of a computer screen.

    Thank you so much!!

    Steve from Southern Maryland
    Last edited by shylin01; 12-13-2008, 10:41 PM.

  • #2
    Try some saline solution in your eyes after welding and spritz them occasionally for several hours afterwards. May not help, but it can't hurt the dry eyes. With the amount of protection you've been using I doubt it is the UV rays causing your eye problems. You've more or less covered that as a possibility. should be looking for another reason. You didn't say whether you had been doing any grinding along with the welding, but it is a fair guess you are or should be. Make sure you are wearing adequate eye wear for that as well. The grinding dust could be the source of your problem...if you are grinding. Those form fitting goggles you have may need a set of lighter lenses for grinding.

    If it isn't grinding dust causing your problem, start looking around the work site for other causes. You aren't working in a high humidity/mold environment are you? Using any sort of chemicals? You've done a good job of isolating out UV radiation as a potential source of your problem. Now you need to check and eliminate the other potential sources. Finally, what are you welding on? Even steel if mill scale or rust preventitive is on it could be a problem if you rub your eyes by chance with dirty hands. Best of luck in finding the problem and getting it sorted out.
    Miller 251, Lincoln PrecisionTig 275, Miller DialArc 250 AC/DC, Hypertherm 900, Bridgeport J-head, Jet 14" lathe, South Bend 9" lathe, Hossfeld bender with a collection of dies driving me to the poorhouse, Logan shaper, Ellis 3000 bandsaw, Royersford drill press and a Victor Journeyman O/A.


    • #3
      You might be standing over the work too much and getting the fumes in your eyes. If your eyes are that sensitive, you could be irritating them without even encountering UV rays. Another thing, wear dark colored clothing on top to keep reflected light rays down.

      I used to wear a "mud flap" on my shield when I did a lot of welding. It helps.
      Last edited by Pangea; 12-13-2008, 11:22 PM. Reason: more info
      Two turn tables and a microphone.


      • #4
        My 60 year old eyes are drying up. I don't even have to be welding, just driving to welding class I notice the dryness (Colorado has a very low winter humidity). My Sister has the same problem and just told me about the 'over the counter' wetting drops (NOT Visine, etc). I'll be giving them a try. There's no way I'm quitting welding classes.
        9-11-2001......We Will Never Forget

        Retired desk jockey.

        Hobby weldor with a little training.

        Craftsman O/A---Flat, Vert, Ovhd, Horz.

        Miller Syncrowave 250


        • #5
          are you sure you're not straining your eyes by having your hood too dark? You should not be trying to get it as dark as you possibly can, this can cause eye strain and discomfort similar to what you describe. What shade are you using while welding?
          SA-250 Diesel
          ASME Section IX Certified


          • #6
            Originally posted by delwelds View Post
            are you sure you're not straining your eyes by having your hood too dark? You should not be trying to get it as dark as you possibly can, this can cause eye strain and discomfort similar to what you describe. What shade are you using while welding?


            • #7
              Shade charts for reference:



              --- RJL ----------------------------------------------

              Ordinarily I'm insane, but I have lucid moments when I'm merely stupid.


              • #8
                I was welding w/ a 110v mig with a fixed shade 10 when I started having problems w/ my eyes bothering me, which is when I switched to the auto dark helemet w/ adjustable shade. I have the same problems if I just mig weld around 100 amps at shade 10. I have tried up to shade 12 but past shade 11 I can't see well. So it doesn't seem to be too dark or light shade ... everything I do is basic hobbyist automotive repairs with a 135 amp 110 mig. And I am never burning an arc for more than a few minutes during any one welding session, it's all light duty hobbyist stuff . Which is why it is driving me crazy that my eyes bother me so much, I am not welding 8 hours a day!

                I am usually upside down under a car, but with good ventilation. I am working either outside or in my large 2.5 car garage with the doors open. The garage itself is newer and very clean. I am welding with a flap now off the hood to make sure no UV is bouncing up into the helmet.

                I am grinding usually when I am welding, with proper goggles or face shield, but I have welded without grinding at all recently and my eyes still bothered me afterwards, just from the welding.

                Very puzzling, annoying, and uncomfortable. And like I said my eyes, aside from welding, are normal and fine. I don't have eye irritation from light, wind, or anything else normally. Welding is my #1 eye irritation but I don't want to not be able to weld for a couple minutes every few weeks!

                Thanks for the ideas. I will try the saline rinse afterwards and see what happens. Although most of the discomfort takes a few hours to set in after welding, I can tell soon after starting welding that something is funny with my eyes.



                • #9
                  Id go with either the fumes or too dark a shade as the most likely problem, followed by the environment making your eyes dryer.

                  The fumes in your eyes directly will cause problems, as will breathing them. Breathing the fumes not only gives you black snot, but also can cause an allergic reaction from the chemical composition, reaction due to the ozone (a strong irritant), or other and general irritation from the dusts, any of which will bother your eyes.

                  Too dark a shade may lead to eye strain, too light a shade will cause irritation/strain from the light intensity. Modern protection provides shade14 equivalent for UV and IR no matter what the visible light shade (in particular auto dark lenses, but most types of fixed shade do much better than 20 years ago, as well), so lightening the shade will not lead to anything other than visible light dazzle (within limits). It is definitely a help to wear safety glasses under the helmet (protects from spatter that bounces, they are already on when you go to clean a weld, and most types provide moderate protection from UV, despite being visible light clear. Also reduce, but don't eliminate, air flow around the eyes, reducing the amount of smoke and fume your eyes are exposed to)

                  I use moisturizing drops, especially in the winter, anyway, so I can't tell you if they help after welding.

                  As a side note, one thing to check is for light leaks in the helmet, especially around the lens. The gaskets don't always seat tight and a small leak that you don't notice while welding can be a problem. Reflections from clothing and from behind you are also a problem (from behind you? yup. Reflects off the inside of the lens.) To check for light leaks, go outside on a sunny day and hold the shield up to the sun. Don't wear it, hold it out at half arms length, and turn it to a variety of angles, looking for ANY light leak, even the smallest pinhole. Even if it isn't bright (light leaking from the outside and reflecting to get through is still a problem) Any leaks around the lens can usually be fixed by reseating or replacing the gasket. Other leaks can be treated with black electrical tape.
                  I may not be good looking, but I make up for it with my dazzling lack of personality


                  • #10
                    You do have a rubber gasket around your lens to seal out any light leaks, right?
                    PowerMig 215
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                    Originally posted by scab
                    If you are the type of person who gets upset at things breaking brace yourself for possible dissappointment.


                    • #11
                      The helmet is brand new and I did check for light leaks. I am already wearing UV goggles that seal to my face with a gasket, under the helmet. And like I said I can weld with a shade 10 on the auto darkening helmet and my eyes still bother me. The goggles are vented though so they are not completely blocking out welding fumes.


                      • #12
                        I bet you guys who think it's the ozone and/or other welding gases produced during the arc, are on to something. I really appreciate your insight because although my thread probably sounds like a really stupid question, it is the difference between me being able to weld comfortably and not, which is a big deal to me personally. So I appreciate your thoughts and consideration.

                        Is there a full face cartridge type respirator that will fit under a helmet like a Miller elite auto dark helmet? I know I can fit a 3M half mask with cartridges under it, if I remove the pre filters, under a hood but I have not tried a full face unit. If I can fit a low profile full face respirator, that sounds like it will fully protect me from fumes, including my eyes. I have a supplied air mask for auto body but there is no way it is going to fit under a welding hood.




                        • #13
                          They make supplied-air welding hood systems; Hornell has their Speedglas hood setup with an Adflo filtered air system for welding but it's not cheap by most people's definition. Here's a link to it on one dealer's site:

                          Trailblazer 302 * Millermatic 212 * Syncrowave 180SD * X-Treme 12VS Feeder * Spoolmate 3035
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                          Victor Superrange II * Victor Journeyman

                          Hobart HH 125EZ


                          • #14
                            Well maybe you ought to try a whole different approach!! Start a big project and weld like crazy for days on end. You may find out that your body just simply adapts.
                            If not then quit welding. This may sound harsh but you been to doctors and bought yourself a fancy welding hood etc... heck you've prolly spent more money on you eyes than some guys have in all their stuff! And seriously I'm not just picking on you either..I would tell my boys the same thing. I don't mean weld yourself blind, just weld a whole bunch more to find out if the condition worsens.
                            I have found the older I get the more pain I must endure it truly sucks. So I have given up the dirt bikes and water skiing and steps ain't any fun.
                            My eyes are getting weaker too. Thinks I did just a "while back" are more like 20 or more years ago. You are gonna have to make a choice soon.
                            Miller Dynasty 700...oh yea baby!
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                            • #15
                              A respirator is not comfortable. Add to that that the inexpensive ones are only somewhat effective, and it is a loser.

                              Try this: put a fan behind you blowing fresh air toward the back of your lid.
                              Use a fume extractor to blow the fumes away from you

                              The combination is quite effective
                              I may not be good looking, but I make up for it with my dazzling lack of personality