Have you been thinking about perhaps getting a jump start on your summer tan by heading to your local tanning salon? Most people know that ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause skin damage and even cancer, but did you know that indoor tanning can also have harmful effects on your eyes?
No one thinks twice about putting on a pair sunglasses when they go outside into a bright, summer day, but eye protection is even more important when you’re using an indoor tanning bed or booth. Yes, the goggles provided for eye protection while tanning do look a little silly and can sometimes leave you with a funny, raccoon-like tan around your eyes, but that’s a small price to pay to save your eyesight. Tanning beds are well known for their damaging UV rays and simply closing your eyes while tanning in a booth or bed is not enough to protect your eyes against the exposure they receive. Exposure to UV rays can be up to 100 times greater than from just spending time in the summer sun, since they have near direct contact with your eyes when you’re in a tanning booth or bed. Constant exposure to these intense UV rays can cause damage to the eyes, including photokeratitis (a sunburn on your cornea), cataracts, skin cancer around the eye, macular degeneration as well as corneal infections and conjunctivitis. As with sun exposure to skin, these effects on your eyes are cumulative and damage may not start to develop until many years later, so it’s very important to stay protected.
If you must use a tanning bed, be sure to limit your exposure (i.e. how often you tan and the length of time that you tan each session) as well as wear protective eyewear. Use the safety goggles that are offered in the salon, in fact many states require the use of goggles while tanning and many salons provide them for free. Make sure your goggles are in good condition, fit properly and are certified to absorb 100% of UV radiation.
If you experience eye pain after tanning, or if you are a frequent tanner who has noticed changes in your vision, be sure to schedule an exam.