A mum has revealed how she almost went partially blind after using sunbeds without safety goggles lead to her needing sight-saving surgery.
Cheryl Wilson, 40, from Romford, Essex was horrified when her optician revealed her “foggy vision” was the result of a cataract-like growth in her right eye, which would have left her partially blind if it went untreated.
While the mum-of-four had occasionally used sunbeds throughout her entire adult life, earlier this year she increased her 15-minute sessions to twice a week, as she wanted to have a tan in time for summer.
But in March she started noticing an issue with her vision.
Initially, she struggled to drive at night, due to the beaming lights of oncoming vehicles, but by the end of that month, she found even going out during the day really unpleasant, as she became so sensitive to light.
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“The blurry vision and sensitivity came and went, but then it came back after a couple of days," says Wilson, who owns an agency providing staff for boxing matches.
“Then it kept getting worse and worse, to the point I couldn’t drive in the daytime or at night and I could barely even read, as the letters kept getting foggier.”
Thinking it was caused by irritation from her eyelash extensions, Wilson went to the optician thinking she would just need some eye drops.
But tests in April revealed she had suffered severe UV light damage to both eyes, with her right eye requiring immediate surgery.
Thankfully, the 20-minute operation Wilson had privately earlier this month at SpaMedica in Romford to replace her right eye lens with an artificial one was successful.
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“If I hadn’t had the operation, I would have lost my sight in that eye completely within weeks as I could only see silhouettes by then.
“On the day of my surgery, I was really scared, as I was on my own and all I kept thinking was that I was going to be blind.
“I was petrified.”
Despite what she describes as "brilliant care" by the doctors, Wilson says she found the surgery traumatic as she was awake throughout.
“They clamped my eye open and I was just watching it all happen," she explains.
“Emotionally and mentally it was really draining."
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While Wilson feels grateful she went to the optician when she did and her vision was saved, the surgery came at a cost to her confidence.
“I’ve had to take a step back from my life," she explains.
"I have been in this industry, in the glitz and glamour and regularly on the red carpet for years, but now I can’t leave the house.
“I can’t enjoy getting dolled up, putting a nice dress on and nice shoes, as I’m not up to it since my surgery."
She is also concerned she may have to face the consequences of not wearing goggles for the rest of her life.
“I’m never going on a sunbed again and I feel incredibly nervous to go anywhere hot where the sun’s out, because I don’t know how much more damage my eyes can take,” she explains.
“I’ve become so anxious and worried all the time."
Wilson is sharing her story to help raise awareness of the dangers of using sunbeds without goggles and encourage sunbed-users to take their eye health more seriously.
“Losing part of your sight is terrifying," Wilson says. “I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’ve been through.
“Please wear the goggles, because it can have a devastating effect on your life if you don’t," she adds.
“What’s happened to me can happen to anyone."
Gary Lipman, chairman of The Sunbed Association, also wants to stress the importance of following safety guidelines when using tanning beds.
“It is absolutely essential that all sunbed-users wear appropriate protective eyewear when using a sunbed – and the same should apply when sunbathing," he says.
“Simply closing your eyelids or covering the eyes is not sufficient to protect them from ultraviolet light, as it can penetrate the eyelid skin.
"It is a requirement of the British Standard that covers sunbeds that appropriate protective eyewear is worn throughout the tanning session.
“Anyone seeking correct advice and information about using a sunbed responsibly should use a salon which has membership of The Sunbed Association, where staff are properly trained to screen customers to check for any contra-indications to tanning and ensure they are informed about all aspects of responsible tanning, including the necessity of wearing appropriate protective eyewear.”
Additional reporting PA Real Life.