Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation

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Does UV radiation cause any other health problems?

In addition to cancer, exposure to UV rays can cause other problems. UV rays, either from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds, can cause sunburn. In some people, exposure to UV rays can cause a rash or a type of allergic reaction. Exposure to UV rays can also cause premature aging of the skin and signs of sun damage such as liver spots, actinic keratosis, and solar elastosis.

UV rays can also cause eye problems. They can cause the cornea (on the front of the eye) to become inflamed or burned. They can also lead to the formation of cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) and pterygium (tissue growth on the surface of the eye), both of which can impair vision. UV rays can also affect an area of the retina (the part of the eye that senses light) called the macula, which can also affect vision.

Exposure to UV rays can also weaken the immune system, so that the body has a harder time fending off infections. This can lead to problems such as reactivation of herpes triggered by exposure to the sun or other sources of UV rays. It can also cause vaccines to be less effective.

Some medications can make you more sensitive to UV radiation, making you more likely to get sunburned. Certain medical conditions can be made worse by UV radiation.


Last Medical Review: 07/02/2013
Last Revised: 05/30/2014