Wearing tanning goggles while using a sun-bed is essential in order to prevent UV damage to the eyes. The eyelids are too thin and transparent to give sufficient protection against this damage, which can cause both long term and short term problems with the eyes. In the most severe cases, the damage caused to the eyes by indoor tanning machines could lead to blindness or even cancer.
Tanning bed goggles cover the eyes and eyelids. They are usually composed of two darkened lenses that are held together and kept in place by thin, flexible straps. Some sun-bed users do not wear goggles, as they believe that they will end up with un-tanned skin around their eyes that will ruin the appearance of their tan. This is a myth. Although they do cover the eyelids, indoor tanning goggles do not interfere with the tanning process, since the eyelids do not naturally tan.
Using an indoor tanning bed without wearing goggles can have serious consequences. Tanning beds use ultraviolet lights that produce both UVA and UVB rays that are more powerful than those in sunlight. This means that the eyes can be damaged even by a short period of unprotected exposure to the lights of a sun-bed. Goggles for tanning can help to protect the eyes from the damaging rays of the tanning light, in the same way that sunglasses can protect them from bright sunlight, or from the reflected rays of sunlight that can bounce back from snow and harm the eyes of skiers. The eyes are also usually protected from the sun by the eyebrows, which shelter then from the direct rays. There is no such protection when lying horizontally in a sun-bed, however, since the light is directed straight into the face.
Long-term use of indoor tanning beds without adequate eye protection can seriously damage the eyes. The cornea, the transparent layer that covers the eyeball, can be burned. This irritates the eyes and can lead to conjunctivitis, an eye infection that cause blurred vision and a sticky coating of mucus and pus around the eyelids and eyelashes. UV light damage can also cause cataracts to develop. Cataracts are cloudy or opaque patches in the eye that cause foggy and unclear vision. They require surgical removal. Tanning beds can also damage the retina, which is the light-sensitive layer at the back of eye. If this is damaged it can seriously affect the eyesight, causing black spots to appear in the vision. Treatment of retinal damage may involve surgery. The damage inflicted on the eyes by sun-beds can also result in a malignant melanoma or cancer of the eye.
Tanning goggles should fit securely and comfortably over the eyes. There should be no gaps around the edges, as these would allow damaging rays of light to enter. Tanning booth goggles with corrective lenses are also available for people who usually wear glasses or contact lenses. Contact lenses cannot be worn in a tanning bed, and glasses would not fit while tanning goggles are being worn.
Sun tanning goggles should protect the eyes against both UVA and UVB rays. They cannot block out all UV light, but they should reduce it enough to minimize damage to the eyes. Tanning goggles should block enough visible light to allow the wearer to use the indoor tanning bed comfortably. They should also reduce the amount of light outside the visible range that reaches the eyes, including dark blue and ultraviolet light. Dark blue light in the 390 to 450 nanometer range can damage the retina seriously enough to cause blindness. Ultraviolet light in the 320 to 390 nanometer range can cause cataracts, and ultraviolet light with wavelengths of under 320 nanometers can cause conjunctivitis and burn the cornea. Safety goggles should not prevent the wearer from distinguishing the color of warning lights.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advise in their indoor tanning safety standards that goggles are worn at all times when using a sun-bed. All tanning salons in the United States must provide their clients with sterilized goggles that have been approved by the FDA.
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