When a human is hit by lightning, part of the strike’s charge flows over the skin – referred to as external flashover – and part of it goes through them internally. The more of the strike that flows through, the more internal damage it causes. The most common organ affected is the heart, with the majority of people who die from a strike doing so from cardiac arrest. Deep tissue destruction along the current path can also occur, most notably at the entrance and exit points of the strike on the body. Lightning also causes its victims to physically jump, which is caused by the charge contracting the muscles in the body instantaneously.
Burns are the most visible effect of being struck by lightning, with the electrical charge heating up any objects in contact with the skin to incredible levels, causing them to melt and bond with the human skin. Interestingly, however, unlike industrial electrical shocks – which can last hundreds of milliseconds and tend to cause widespread burns over the body – lightning-induced burns tend to be centered more around the point of contact, with a victim’s head, neck and shoulders most affected.
Post-strike side-effects of being struck by lightning range from amnesia, seizures, motor control damage, hearing loss and tinnitus, through blindness, sleep disorders, headaches, confusion, tingling and numbness. Further, these symptoms do not always develop instantaneously, with many – notably neuropsychiatric problems (vision and hearing) – developing over time.