emergency medicine at ncemi   More Emergency Medicine Resources
Back to table of contents

2.09 Ultraviolet Keratoconjunctivitis (Welder's or Tanning Bed Burn)


The patient arrives with burning eye pain, usually bilateral, beginning 6 to 8 hours after a brief exposure without eye protection to a high intensity ultraviolet light source such as a sunlamp or welder's arc. The eye exam shows conjunctival injection; fluorescein staining may be negative or show diffuse superficial uptake (discerned as a punctate keratopathy under slit lamp examination). The patient may also have first-degree skin burns.

What to do:

What not to do:


The history of a brief exposure may be difficult to elicit after the long asymptomatic interval. Longer exposures to lower intensity UV sources may resemble a sunburn. Some physicians find it quite acceptable to substitute for the antibiotic ointment a one-time instillation of an ophthalmic anesthetic ointment (Tetracaine), which allows longer-lasting topical anesthesia. Some patients do not tolerate bilateral patching (they may have to get home alone). Cold compresses may be substituted for patches. Healing should be complete in 12-24 hours. If the patient continues to have discomfort, an ophthalmologist should be consulted.

Table of Contents
from Buttaravoli & Stair: COMMON SIMPLE EMERGENCIES
Longwood Information LLC 4822 Quebec St NW Washington DC 20016-3229 fax electra@clark.net
Emergency Medicine at NCEMI   More emergency medicine resources
Write to us at NCEMI
Craig Feied, MD
Mark Smith, MD
Jon Handler, MD
Michael Gillam, MD