Some of you may have noticed that I was unusually quiet at the end of last week. Well, the truth is that I couldn’t actually see – I couldn’t open my left eye. The reason? Corneal Flash Burn, otherwise known as Welders Flash to my farming/engineering based family or Ultraviolet Ketatitis which is described as: 

“an acute syndrome that occurs after ultraviolet irradiation of the eyes. The exposure may not be initially apparent to the patient, as there is a latent period (6 to 12 hours) between exposure and onset of symptoms.”

Basically, I sunburnt the clear lubricating top layer of my left eye, with a studio strobe whilst teaching photography with Katrina. I was stood (way too close) about 1ft away from the opening of the softbox, with the light to my immediate left – in full shot of every pop of flash during the session. I was attracting Bobby’s attention at the light for this shot here:

See above where it says there is a “period of between 6 and 12 hours for onset of symptoms”? Yeah, that was me driving home – thankfully I made it home before the pain started. 

And yes, it really really started. First with uber-sensitivity to light on the evening when I was editing up some shots on the iMac. Like the start of a migraine coming on? You know?

Then I went to sleep, and woke up the following day, the Friday, to a bright red eye and by 3pm the pain was so extreme that even in pitch darkness, opening my eye was not an option. Through closed eyelids, in a dark room, a phone lighting up caused such intense pain that it made me scream out. 

So I was alone at home, unable to open my eye, unable to see, unable to do anything. I couldn’t even look for painkillers to numb the stabbing gritty pain that was getting worse by the minute. I had absolutely no idea what was wrong with me, I’d made peace with the fact that I was probably going blind in my left eye and that there was nothing I could do about it. (dramatic no?)

Thankfully, my other half came home from work, took one look at me and told me to man up because I ‘only’ had ‘welders flash’ and that, yes, it hurts like a b*tch but I’ll survive. Thanks for the sympathy Tom!

He then set to work on the correct course of home treatments for corneal flash burn:

  • Cold compress over the affected eye (the cold flannel was like heaven)
  • Painkillers – Anadin Extra works a charm
  • Darkness – create a cave like abyss of darkness to hide in
  • Sleep – seriously, it’s impressive the healing speed when you sleep a lot
  • No/Low artificial light – no mobiles, no laptops, not lights, lamps, streetlights, TV…
  • Time. 1-3 days (3 for me!).

On day 2 of the sunburnt eye situation, I’d recovered to the point of being able to open my eye enough to go to work and shoot – though it looked like this:

Ew right?!

Anyway, by day three, all I was left with was sensitivity and cloudiness – no ‘pain’ to be seen and only a touch of redness. Day 4, that’s today, and I’ve got just a touch of foggy vision – no pain at all. 

So that’s that – don’t stand too close to strobes and protect your eyes if you do – the pain and time off work is not worth the shot! Eyes are important. Keep them safe!