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Eye Health Center

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Corneal Flash Burns

Questions to Ask the Doctor

  • Have you found a reason for my symptoms?

  • Will I develop any scarring or permanent visual loss from a corneal flash burn?

  • Is there anything I should do to prevent this injury from happening again?

  • What can I expect to feel once the numbing eyedrops have worn off?

  • When may I resume my regular activities?

Exams and Tests

To make the diagnosis, your ophthalmologist or the physician in the hospital's emergency department will take a history, examine your eyes, and discuss recent exposure you may have had to ultraviolet light.

  • Your eyelids, pupils, back of the eye, and vision are checked.
  • Your ophthalmologist looks at the surface of your eyes using special equipment, such as a slit lamp, made especially for examining the eye's surface.
  • A numbing eyedrop to allow your eye to be examined and a painless dye called fluorescein may be put onto your eye to aid in the examination. The stain temporarily makes your eye look yellow but goes away after a few minutes. A special blue light is then used to evaluate the stained eye to determine if corneal damage is present. A damaged cornea, coupled with a history of ultraviolet light exposure, confirms the diagnosis of radiation eye burns or corneal flash burns.

Corneal Flash Burns Treatment

Self-Care at Home

  • If you are experiencing eye pain and wear contact lenses, remove them immediately.
  • Sunglasses may help if your eyes are sensitive to light.
  • Over-the-counter artificial tears or lubricants may improve the discomfort in your eye.

Medical Treatment

In some cases, the eye may be patched to aid in healing and pain control. Wearing sunglasses may also help relieve the pain.


Treatment may involve pain medicine, antibiotic medication, or medicine to enlarge (dilate) the pupils. Depending on your situation, any combination of these treatments, or none of them, may be indicated.

  • Topical, antibiotic eyedrops or ointment made specifically for the eye may be recommended to prevent infection in the damaged cornea. Some ophthalmologists may use steroid eyedrops to reduce inflammation and to avoid potential scarring.

  • A short-acting drug may be used to paralyze the ciliary muscles of the eye, resulting in a fixed and dilated pupil. This drug would be used to rest the muscles of the eyes, as well as to decrease pain from eye muscle spasms.

  • Oral medication can be used for pain control. Pain medication may be an anti-inflammatory pain medicine, such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen sodium (Anaprox). Other pain medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), may also be used; rarely, stronger agents may be used.

  • Topical anesthetics for the eye should never be used because they can slow the healing of the cornea and lead to ulcer formation.

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