Why Should I Wear Eye Protection when Exposed to UV Rays?
Welcome back, smart tanners! Today’s blog is all about the windows to the soul, two things we can take for granted every single day, our eyes. Do our eyes tan? No… But, they are just as affected by the sun as our skin is.
Most people don’t think twice when throwing on their favorite pair of sunglasses as they walk out the door, but many tanners resist wearing eye protection when using a tanning bed because of the raccoon-like tan marks they can potentially leave. Speaking from experience, having used goggles every time I have tanned, the only time I noticed any form of markings from the goggles was after using our highest-level bed (and the marks faded within the following hour). Smart tanners use eye protection every time they tan…
Tanning can produce UV levels up to 100 times what you would normally get from the sun. These intense levels can cause serious damage to the internal and external structures of the eye and eyelids. Of course, our eyes, occupying a whopping 2% of the entire body surface, have evolved a number of mechanisms to protect these very sensitive organs from such damage. Such as:
- Anatomical features, like the recession of the eye beneath the brow ridge, the eyebrows and the eyelashes help to shield from physical debris that may harm the eye, but are of little defense against UV exposure
- Constriction of the pupil, closure of the eyelids, and the squinting reflex minimize the penetration of the sun’s rays into the eye—each of these actions is activated by bright visible light and not by UV radiation, therefore the effectiveness of these natural defenses is limited on a cloudy day, which may still have a high UV Index measurement
Without proper protection there are a handful of dangerous effects that UV rays can have on your eyes. This next section, we’ll be diving into those specifics and yes… there will be (graphic) pictures.
Photokeratitis and Photoconjunctivitis
Figure 1 http://nationalsunglassesday.com/sunglasses/health-implications/
Photokeratitis is inflammation of the cornea, while photojunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva—the membrane that lines the inside of the eyelids and eye socket. These inflammatory reactions usually appear within a few hours of exposure and can be compared to sunburn of the very sensitive skin-like tissues of the eyeball and eyelids. Though very painful, these reactions are reversible and do not seem to result in any long-term damage to the eye or vision.
Snow blindness is an extreme form of photokeratitis, which can sometimes occur in skiers and climbers who experience extreme UV levels due to high altitude conditions and very strong ground reflection (fresh snow can reflect up to 80% of incident UV radiation). These extreme UV levels kill the outer cells of the eyeball leading to blindness; the shedding of said dead cells is very painful. In the majority of cases new cells grow quickly and vision is restored within a few days, though severe snow blindness may involve complications such as chronic irritations or tearing.
Figure 2 http://www.masonseyecare.com.au/commonvisionproblems/pterygium
Pterygium is the growth of the conjunctiva on the surface of the eye, and is a common cosmetic blemish. This growth may extend over the center of the cornea causing reduced vision, as well as having a tendency to becaom inflamed. Thought pterygium can be removed by surgery, the outgrowth tends to reoccur.
Figure 3 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-30341213
Cataracts are the #1 cause of blindness in the world. Proteins in the eye’s lens unravel, tangle, and accumulate pigments, which cloud the lens and eventually lead to blindness. Though the degree in which cataracts appear varies in most individuals as they age, they appear to be enhanced by exposure to UVB. Cataracts can be surgically removed and replaced by an artificial lens or other means of optical correction to restore vision.
Cancer of the Eye
Figure 4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uveal_melanoma
Figure 5 http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/Skin-cancer-Pesky-eyelid-symptom-requires-surgery-2309143.php#photo-1815882
According to current scientific evidence accumulated by the FDA, different forms of eye cancer may be associated with life-long exposure to the sun. Melanoma is the most frequent malignant cancer of the eyeball and sometimes requires surgical removal. Also, a common location for basal cell carcinoma is on the eyelids.
What Protection Should I Use?
At Ultimate Sun, we provide a pair of goggles per room, so our clients don’t have to face the hassle of purchasing a pair and remembering to bring them each and every time. If your tanning at a salon that doesn’t provide you with eyewear, your options include goggles or stickers. (Pictured below)
Thanks again for reading our blog, Ask Ultimate Sun! We hope you start wearing your eye protection every time you tan!
Check back in next Wednesday for your tanning knowledge upgrade! XOXO, MJ