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How to Treat an Arc Eye

Updated July 19, 2017

Photokeratitis or arc eye is a painful inflammation of the cornea caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. The outermost protective layer of cells in the cornea become damaged and fall off, revealing sensitive nerves. Causes of arc eye include welding torches, direct sunlight and sunlamps in a tanning salon. Symptoms of arc eye are mild to severe pain in the eyes, bloodshot eyes, light sensitivity, watery eyes and blurred vision. Arc eye is normally a temporary condition and can be treated somewhat easily.

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  1. Turn off the light in a room to darken it, which will limit light sensitivity.

  2. Use padded dressings and cover the affected eye or eyes to aid with healing and preventing sunlight from hitting the cornea.

  3. Call and see a health care provider to treat a severe case of arc eye. The physician may provide anesthetic drops for eye pain relief and antibiotic medicine for preventing possible infection within the eye.

  4. Allow the physician to inspect your eyes and apply anesthetic drops if required. You should not be putting anesthetic drops in yourself without the supervision and care of a qualified physician.

  5. Use the antibiotic medicine as directed by your health care provider. After 48 hours, make another appointment to review the problem. Serious problems may cause you to be sent to an ophthalmologist, an eye specialist.

  6. Tip

    Do not touch or rub your eyes. Continue antibiotic treatment until your eyes have healed.


    Keep antibiotic drops or ointment in the refrigerator and out of reach of children. Do not wear contact lenses until your eyes have healed. Prolonged and frequent exposures to arc eye can cause permanent damage to occur.

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Things You'll Need

  • Antibiotic medicine
  • Padded dressing
  • Anesthetic drops

About the Author

Jay Jay Waltz

Jay Jay Waltz has been writing professionally since 2009, focusing on health, wellness and nutrition. He has written for various online publications. Waltz is a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer while undergoing corrective rehabilitation training. Waltz also holds a Bachelor of Science in public health environmentalism from the Southern Connecticut State University.

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