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Tanning Beds Can Damage Your Eyes

There's no doubt artificial tanning through the use of "tanning beds" is a big business in the United States--especially in states like Virginia where the colder months prevent sunbathers from venturing outside to catch their rays.    We know that tanning beds provide significantly more UV (ultra-violet) light than the sun.   And we know that UV light can lead to melanomas and other skin cancers.    But, the eyes are probably even more susceptible to tanning bed UV light damage than the skin.

Some sources estimate that the UV concentration reaching the eyes is 100 times greater in a tanning bed than from normal sun exposure.    Simply closing your eyes or wearing traditional UV blocking sunglasses will do little do block this amount of UV light.   The "tanning eyeglasses" provided by the tanning facility will provide a higher level of protection, but the best bet is not to tan at all, given the harmful effects.

One of the most common eye problems caused by tanning bed exposure is photokeratitis.   This is akin to a sunburn on the cornea, which is a delicate but extremely important part of the eye's front surface.    Symptoms of photokeratitis include sensitivity to light, eye pain, swelling of the eyelids, hazy or blurry vision, redness and a sandy feeling.     Thankfully, this condition is temporary.

However, UV light is also linked to the development of cataracts, which causes vision loss only reversible with surgery.     Even more detrimental, UV light is linked with macular degeneration and melanomas of the eye.   These carry serious complications for long term eye health and vision.     So before you use a tanning bed, know all of the risks.

Dr. Beach.

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