How Does Welding Affect Your Eyes?

You may be wondering if welding can cause dangers to your vision. Like any activity, risks can be mitigated by using common sense and PPE on a regular basis. So, how does welding affect your eyes?

Welding isn’t bad for your eyes if you follow proper safety precautions. However, a few wrong decisions can seriously harm your vision. This quick guide will outline the proper steps to keep your eyes safe while performing different welding processes.

Proper Lens Shade

This is one of the most essential pieces of equipment that a welder can have. Lens shades vary and can be used for different amperage applications. The info below should give you a better idea of which lens is right for your project.

Shade 7 < 60 amps
Shade 8 60-70 amps
Shade 9 70-80 amps
Shade 10 80-110 amps
Shade 11 110-150 amps
Shade 12 150-200 amps
Shade 13 200 amps and above (be careful)

We have formulated this chart by combining info from other charts, and also by what we have experienced while welding. It is conservative and based on our personal preferences when it comes to lens shades. You may see a welder running dual shield flux core MIG with a shade 9 lens. Maybe their eyes can handle that, but we wouldn’t recommend it.

You’ll notice that shades 10-12 have more of a range in terms of amperage. These are the shades that are most commonly used by most welders. A shade 7 or 8 just isn’t that useful most of the time.

Welding Outfit

The chart above is a safe bet when selecting the lens shade for your project. Many welding hoods nowadays will have shades 8-13 that can be changed with a click of a button. Some welders eyes are more sensitive than others. If this is the case, you may want to run a darker lens shade than usual.

If you follow this advice and always use a dark enough lens, you shouldn’t be causing any damage to your eyes. Remember, you should be able to see your arc and not much else. If you can see your entire work piece while welding, you probably need a darker lens (as too much light is coming through).

Safest Type Of Lens

The safest lens in terms of eye protection is what is called a “passive” lens. This means that the lens is always dark. They are usually made of tough glass that comes in specific shades based on your needs.

These passive lenses can make it hard to start your arc; because once you flip your hood down, you can’t see anything. Veteran welders will be used to welding with passive lenses, but newbies can find them very frustrating.

Auto-darkening lenses switch from light to dark (usually in 1/10,00 of a second). This makes it easier to start your arc, but is believed to harm your eyes if used for an entire career. Most welding hoods today are auto darkening, and some have switch times as fast as 1/25,000 of a second. Does this still harm your eyes over time? That is up for debate.

Stick Welding Fabrication

All of the little arc flashes that are fractions of seconds could, in theory, damage your eyes over time. However, most welders will get flashed on occasion just due to human error. A buddy welding next to you can flash your peripherals, or you may just forget to put your hood down.

Repeated exposure to arc flashes can cause corneal damage over time. Similar to staring at the sun, cancer is definitely a factor down the road. The UV rays from a welding arc are very extreme, especially at higher amperages.

We personally think that auto-darks aren’t bad for your eyes, but passive is still the safest lens choice.

If you aren’t sure which lens shade to use on a project, refer to the chart or ask a more experienced welder what lens they’re running. A shade 10 or shade 11 will cover most regular projects.

A Word On TIG Pulses

The pulse setting for TIG welding can also irritate certain peoples eyes. Pulsing is when the TIG arc rapidly starts and stops – this is often used to achieve perfectly spaced dimes. This can cause headaches and eye irritation depending on how sensitive you are.

We try to limit the amount of time where we use pulsed TIG. It is a great setting to have on your machine, but it can be really annoying at times.

Debris, Sparks, and Spatter

Now that we have covered the obvious danger of UV damage, let’s dive into the other hazards regarding eye safety.

Safety glasses can prevent most debris from damaging your eyes, but sometimes a spark just finds its way inside your glasses. As mentioned in our article for the best welding safety glasses, models that have more of a “wrap around” style are regarded as safer.


Often times, debris will come from the side and sneak under your glasses. This is why it’s important to have glasses that fit well (and are large enough). The peripheral protection is extremely important, especially if there are other welders near you. If someone is using a grinder nearby, the sparks can pose a danger to you.

A lot of eye injuries don’t happen while welding; angle grinders and bandsaws can be just as dangerous. This is why we always wear our safety glasses from the beginning of the project to the end of the day.

Welding fabrication shops have lots of dust floating around due to the nature of cutting, welding and grinding. This can irritate your eyes after awhile, and it is why ventilation is so important. If you are applying for a shop position at a fabrication shop, take note of their ventilation equipment. If they haven’t invested in good fume extractors and fans, it’s probably not a place you want to be. Your eyes and lungs will thank you.

Wrap Up

All in all, welding in a safe manner won’t harm your eyes. Avoiding arc flashes and flying debris are two of the most important things you can do to keep your eyes safe.

Once you figure out which lenses are dark enough for certain projects, you’ll be blocking out enough UV rays to keep your eyes safe. Pair this with a good set of safety glasses, and you’ll be doing your eyes a big favor.

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