Photodermatitis is the term used for the abnormal skin reaction that some people experience due to an exposure to sunlight. This condition is characterized by the development of skin rash, hives, swelling, and blisters or skin eruptions. This HealthHearty write-up gives you a brief idea about this condition, and its causes, symptoms, and treatment.
Photodermatitis, also known as sun poisoning, is the condition, where people develop an abnormal skin reaction due to an exposure to sunlight or the ultraviolet radiation of the sun. The condition can be characterized by a sudden or gradual occurrence. This condition is considered to be associated with an abnormal immune reaction, which can be triggered by several factors that can make the skin hypersensitive to sunlight.
Photosensitivity can be associated with several factors, though what exactly causes this abnormal skin reaction is not known. Sometimes, certain drugs like antibiotics, coal tar derivatives, retinoids, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, sulfonylurea, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, quinine and other anti-malarial drugs, and chemotherapy agents can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight.
This can increase the risk of developing an allergic skin reaction to sunlight. This condition can also develop due to an allergic reaction to perfumes and certain other chemicals. In addition to these, photosensitivity can be associated with autoimmune disorders like lupus. Other risk factors for this condition are, diseases like eczema, pellagra, porphyria, and polymorphous light eruption. It has been observed that this condition is more prevalent among the fair and light-skinned individuals, and those with red or blond hair, and blue and green eyes.
This condition can produce several symptoms, which can vary from one person to another. Nevertheless, the most commonly observed symptoms of this condition are:
- Skin rash and itching
- Fluid-filled blisters or skin lesions
- Redness and swelling
- Hyperpigmentation or the development of dark patches on the skin
- Dry and scaly skin patches
The skin of the affected areas can get scarred in the long-run, if the condition persists for a prolonged time period. Sometimes, a severe reaction to sunlight can also produce flu-like symptoms, such as fever, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue, along with the aforementioned symptoms.
The treatment of this condition depends on its severity. Generally, the skin irritation and the rash can be managed with the application of ice or a cold compress. The medications that are usually prescribed for this condition work by suppressing the immune system. Glucocorticoids are commonly used to control the symptoms of this condition. The anti-inflammatory drug hydroxychloroquine is also used for treating this condition.
Previously, thalidomide (a sedative) was used for treating this condition. But this medication was found to cause birth defects, for which it is no longer used in female patients. Phototherapy is another treatment option for this condition. This therapy is based on controlled exposure to light, in order to desensitize the skin, and thus control the symptoms of photodermatitis. However, this therapy may not be suitable for all individuals.
Along with medications, nutritional supplements can also help treat this condition. It has been found that nutrients, like vitamin B3 or niacin, vitamin C, D, and E, beta carotene (the precursor of vitamin A), omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants can prove quite beneficial in the long term management of photodermatitis. One can get these vital nutrients either from supplements, or by including healthy and nutritious foods in the diet.
Apart from these, one can take some precautionary and preventive measures to reduce the frequency of this condition. For example, you can use a sunscreen, and wear a wide-brimmed hat and garments that cover the entire body while going out in the sun. At the same time, it is important to avoid the excessive exposure to sunlight, especially from 11 am or 12 noon to 4 pm in the afternoon.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.