Is Indoor Tanning Safe For My Eyes?

Is Indoor Tanning Safe For My Eyes?

Man in tanning booth wearing goggles

As the cold weather sets in, and sunlight becomes scarce, many Alaskans turn to tanning beds as a form of artificial sunlight. While visiting a tanning bed can feel like a miniature vacation, research suggests that artificial tanning can cause serious skin damage, as well as damage to the eyes.


If you have read our blog, UV and Your Eyes, you know that exposure to UV from sunlight can lead to serious eye conditions such as macular degeneration, cataracts, pterygium, photokeratitis, and cancer. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), tanning beds can produce UV levels up to 100 times what you would get from the sun, which can cause serious damage to the external and internal structures of the eye and eyelids. These UV rays can penetrate the eyelids, so closing your eyes won’t protect them. Because UV damage is cumulative, the more you are exposed, the greater your risk becomes. 

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration, or ARMD, is a potentially blinding condition that occurs when the macula of the eye starts to break down. This portion of the retina is responsible for fine detail and central vision. Extended exposure to UV radiation increases the risk of developing ARMD. There is no cure for macular degeneration, however intraocular injections are used to slow the progression in certain forms of this disease. 


Eyelid skin cancers account for 5-10% of all skin cancers, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation. These cancers include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Treating this condition requires surgical removal of the affected tissue.


Cataracts occur when the clear lens of the eye becomes opaque. This causes a number of visual symptoms, including blurry vision, sensitivity to bright light, glare and halos around lights, and dim color vision. Exposure to UV can lead cataracts to form prematurely. The only treatment for cataracts is surgery. Learn more about cataracts with our blog. 


Photokeratitis occurs when the eye is exposed to excessive UV. It is essentially a sunburn that occurs on the eye. Symptoms of photokeratitis include pain, watery eyes, sensitivity to light, and irritation. This condition can cause severe pain and even temporary loss of vision. Symptoms usually subside within a few days. 


Pterygium, also known as Surfer’s Eye, is a fleshy tissue growth that occurs on the conjunctiva of the eye. This usually occurs in the portion closest to the nose. This benign growth is painless, but can cause irritation and redness in the eye. In severe cases, it may grow onto the cornea, causing vision changes and requiring surgical removal. 

Staying Safe

The best way to protect your eyes from UV is to avoid exposure. Always wear 100% UV blocking sunglasses outdoors, and wear sunscreen on your face and around your eyes. It is best to avoid indoor tanning booths, but if you do go tanning, always wear protective goggles and make sure they are fitting properly. Sunglasses, towels, or closing your eyes will not protect you from UV damage in a tanning bed. 

To keep your eyes and vision healthy, see your eye doctor annually for a routine eye exam. To schedule an exam, call or text (907) 328-2920. To learn more about your eyes, read all of the blog entries on our website at


American Academy of Ophthalmology,

The Skin Cancer Foundation,

Written By:

Gina Stafford, COA, LDO, ABOC

Posted in: Uncategorized

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