Can an Infrared Sauna Hurt Your Eyes? (Potential Watch Outs)

The benefits of sauna usage (stress relief, lower blood pressure, pain relief, detoxification, and so on) may have prompted you to get acclimated with saunas, maybe even make it part of your weekly routine. However, as with many things that are beneficial, there may be some points of concern. Particularly, are saunas detrimental to your eye health?

In order for the infrared sauna to cause harm, you would have to be exposed to near-infrared light at certain concentrations for an extended period of time. Typically any harm caused by the infrared sauna is not due to the light itself but the heat produced by the near-infrared sauna heater. Overexposure to which could result in cornea damage. 

Read on to learn more about the effects of infrared light on the eyes. Also discover what it means for infrared sauna users and precautions, if any, that can be taken. 

Are infrared saunas bad for your eyes?

The eyes are one of the most sensitive organs in our bodies. As we age, the overall health of the eye tends to decline. Many people will naturally develop eye health issues such as cataracts and glaucoma. With the usage of infrared saunas, the question now becomes, does infrared light harm the eyes and speed up the progression of some natural eye health issues?

Infrared light, or infrared radiation, is an unseen light. People feel the effects of the infrared light as heat, hence the heat in an infrared sauna. Therefore, the injuries or damage that could be caused are generally heat injuries. 

Thermal eye injury from prolonged near-infrared exposure can range from cataracts, cornea damage, retina damage, red eye, and swelling of the eye. 

Because over-exposure to high concentrations of infrared radiation is harmful, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection has issued a guideline for infrared users to adhere to.

Unbeknownst to some, infrared light is found in many common household products including lightbulbs, toasters, remote controls, and home saunas, although the frequencies vary by product.

Manufacturers of products containing or emitting infrared light/heat are required to implement safety protocols for consumers. Even with these protocols, it is advised that you do not stare into any light for a prolonged period of time due to potential harm to your eyes.

Is infrared heat bad for your eyes?

The Health Physics Society reported a statement that thermal heating can damage the cornea.

The high temperatures of the infrared sauna could cause cataracts from the damage inflicted to the lens of the eye. 

How to protect your eyes from infrared heat

Escaping the heat of an infrared sauna may seem futile.

However, the use of sunglasses or any type of safety eyeglasses could help shield the eye from some of the heat presents. 

Is infrared light bad for your eyes?

Infrared light is light that you can not see but yet you can feel its heat. 

Eyes have a natural defense to protect themselves. The eyes blink as a mechanism to shield themselves and produce tears to remove debris. However, as infrared light is not visible, the eyes won’t take the proper precaution on their own.

Keep reading to learn how to protect your eyes from the infrared light of the sauna.

How to protect your eyes from infrared light

There are a few ways to protect your eyes from the infrared light in your sauna.

As protection, you could:

  1. Keep your eyes closed while in the sauna.
  2. Practice not looking at the sauna’s infrared heaters.
  3. Use safety eyeglasses specific for infrared eye protection.

Out of all the options listed, the third option, using safety eyeglasses while in the sauna, is the most reasonable as it allows flexibility to open and close your eyes without placing them in harm. 

Infrared eye damage symptoms

Knowing what to look out for is the best line of defense when it comes to protecting the body from potential harm. In terms of infrared exposure to the eyes, what are some signs of eye damage?

Overexposure to infrared light can cause the lens of the eye to turn opaque. This is commonly referred to as developing a cataract.

Cataracts are one of the highest levels of eye damage that someone can experience from infrared exposure. Some low-level exposure risks include:

  • A damaged retina
  • Loss of vision
  • Red eye
  • Swelling of the eye

Can infrared be good for the eyes?

With all the benefits of sauna usage, it is only natural to wonder if those benefits affect one of the body’s most sensitive organs, the eyes. Is there a possibility of infrared being good for the eyes?

Prolonged exposure to infrared lights can be harmful. However, studies have found that red light can also be beneficial to the eyes.

To put their differences into perspective, near-infrared has a wavelength of 700 nanometers(nm) to about 1400 nm, while red light has a wavelength of 630 nm to 700 nm. 

Red Light therapy, as it is called, helps decrease inflammation in the eye and treat glaucoma by protecting both the retina and the cornea. It is also said to have some healing qualities.

One study, in particular, found red light could improve eyesight in individuals over the age of forty, whose eyesight would have generally begun to decline naturally. Another study found that the use of light close to the red light wavelength spectrum could aid in treating various eye injuries and some degenerative issues.