Photoretinitis: an underestimated occupational injury?

Occup Med (Lond). 2002 Jun;52(4):223-5. doi: 10.1093/occmed/52.4.223.


Non-ionizing radiation, which is produced in large amounts by welding arcs, may induce photophthalmia, keratoconjunctivitis and cataracts. Retinal injuries resulting from exposure to electric welding arcs have been reported, but such injuries are not commonly seen and may be misdiagnosed. A case is described of bilateral maculopathy in a millwright exposed to metal arc inert gas-shielded welding and oxygen lance light. Insurance adjudicators denied his claim, as they did not acknowledge the cause-and-effect relationship between welding and retinopathy. Welding emits a wide spectrum of radiation, ranging from IR to UV and beyond. UV and far-IR radiation are adsorbed by the cornea and the lens, whereas visible light and near-IR radiation penetrate to the retina. According to the intensity and time of exposure, they may cause thermal or photochemical retinal damage, which may be permanent and sight-threatening. Workers covered by compulsory collective insurance should be eligible for compensation in every case of welding light-induced retinal damage.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology*
  • Retinitis / etiology*
  • Welding*
  • Workers' Compensation