Indoor Tanning and Your Eyes

Saying goodbye to summer means saying goodbye to your summer tan. As we approach the colder months, you may be thinking of heading indoors to soak up some rays.

But did you know that a tanning booth could cause effects that are more than skin deep? Turns out you could also be hurting your vision health. Tanning beds can emit ultraviolet radiation 100 times stronger than the sun, putting you at greater risk for damage to your skin and your eyes.

Too much UV exposure can cause sunburned corneas, called photokeratitis. Symptoms include tearing, swollen eyelids, and a gritty sensation when you blink. Healing can take up to three days once the eyes are out of harm’s way, with artificial tears and cool compresses used to relieve symptoms.

However, even temporary effects can have long-lasting consequences.

Long-term UV damage could result in the following:


Cataracts form when proteins in the eye’s lens unravel and tangle, clouding vision. Aging is the most common cause, but studies have shown cataracts appear to be enhanced through UVB exposure. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 20 percent of cataracts may be caused by overexposure to UV radiation.

Macular degeneration

Macular degeneration is the loss of central vision due to retinal damage. This condition often happens naturally with aging, but it can be exacerbated with UV overexposure.


UV radiation has been linked with squamous cell carcinoma of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the front of the eye and the underside of the eyelids. Melanoma can also strike the uveal tract (the layer of the eye that contains the iris) and sclera (the white part of the eye). Various types of skin cancers can also form on the eyelid’s thin, sensitive skin.

Pinguecula growth

Pinguecula is detected by a yellow, bumpy growth that can form near the inner corner of the eye on the conjunctiva. This growth could expand to cover the cornea, becoming a pterygium.

UV damage is cumulative and often goes undetected. The more you expose your eyes to these harmful rays, the more damage you could do to your long-term vision health.

The information contained above is intended to be educational in nature, does not constitute medical advice, and should not be relied on as a substitute for actual professional medical advice, care or treatment. If you have any vision, dental or other health related concerns, VBA encourages you to immediately contact your optometrist/ophthalmologist, dentist/orthodontist or any other competent, licensed, medical professional.