The allergy to the sun is a much more common disease than it is believed. This disorder is called a polymorphic light eruption (PLE). It is an abnormal reaction of the body to sunlight, leading to various skin lesions. Although it is known as an allergy to the sun, because the symptoms are very similar to those of an allergic reaction, it is not an allergy itself.
Recent research indicates that this disease affects 10% of the population in Europe and North America . It occurs mainly in men, although it also affects women. In the vast majority of cases, it appears in adulthood, although the first symptoms can occur in childhood.
Causes of allergy to the sun
The cause of this allergy is still unknown. It has not been possible to determine why it affects some people and not others, although in some cases it has been shown that there are hereditary factors. What is essential is to differentiate the allergy to the sun from the reactions of the skin when receiving sun rays while taking certain drugs, when certain cosmetics have been used or in the case of suffering from metabolic disorders or autoimmune diseases.
Obviously, this disorder is more common during the spring and summer months , when the sun’s rays are most intense. Also, during both seasons the skin is more exposed to sunlight.
There are a number of risk factors that are interesting to know.
- Race: although it is true that everyone can suffer from this disease, it is much more common in people who have fair skin.
- Exposure to chemical substances: many of the symptoms of skin allergy develop after exposure of the skin to certain substances, and then to the sun’s rays. The use of some cosmetics, such as fragrances or deodorants, are a major risk factor.
- Skin diseases: those who suffer from dermatitis are at greater risk of suffering from a sun allergy.
- Family history: if there is a family history of this disease, the risk of suffering from it increases.
Sun allergy symptoms
In people who suffer from this type of allergy, the body recognizes the sun’s rays as foreign elements, aggressors, activating the defenses against them. The symptoms are varied and in each person they can manifest themselves differently, even days after exposure to the sun. The most common are:
- Reddened skin
- Itching and even pain in the affected area, which is usually the neck, décolleté or arms, the areas most exposed to the sun. On the face and hands it is more infrequent because the skin is more used to the sun’s rays.
- Lesions in the form of blisters , pimples or areas of bleeding under the skin that may persist for a few days.
- General malaise , headache, nausea, or chills. They are possible symptoms, but less common.
This disease causes a series of symptoms that in many cases are confused with those of other disorders. The skin is itchy, sore and red . It is important to note that injuries do not necessarily have to occur right after sun exposure.
In many cases, skin reactions appear hours, or even days, later in those areas that have been exposed to sunlight. These lesions can remain for days and generally disappear without leaving any scars.
The type of lesions that this disease causes on the skin depends on each patient. In the most severe cases, papules of about one or two centimeters are created, with a slight elevation. Also reddened lesions that take different forms.
The areas of the body that react negatively to sunlight are those that are most exposed, such as the neck or décolleté, for example. In summer, injuries can also appear on the arms, legs, etc. Although in some cases reactions appear on the face and hands, it is not very frequent. The reason is that they receive sunlight every day and are therefore used to it.
Sun allergy diagnosis
Given the appearance of skin lesions after sun exposure, it is advisable to see a doctor to make a diagnosis and determine the most appropriate treatment. First, he takes a medical history of the patient , taking into account his symptoms and his age. In addition, it takes into account various factors, such as whether the signs occur throughout the year or only in some seasons, family history of allergy to the sun, etc.
He then proceeds with a physical examination , analyzing the skin lesions: shape, appearance, and location. If the doctor is in any doubt about its cause, he or she may recommend a skin biopsy.
Although not too common, a sun allergy can be a symptom of an autoimmune disease . If there is suspicion of this, the doctor requests a blood test.
Sun allergy treatment
Once the disease is diagnosed, the doctor recommends the most appropriate treatment for it.
- Phototherapy: phototherapy is very effective in increasing the skin’s resistance to the sun, thus helping to prevent the appearance of symptoms. However, the protection is only temporary and, in addition, several sessions are necessary to obtain any result.
- Corticosteroids: the most common treatment for sun allergy are corticosteroids, both topical and oral. They help minimize symptoms, such as itching and redness of the skin.
Do you have a sun allergy?
The skin lesions may appear for several reasons. To know if a person really has a sun allergy, there are a number of conditions that must be met.
First of all, the rashes should appear after sun exposure . Second, they have to focus on those areas exposed to sunlight, such as the neck or décolleté. Third, the appearance of the lesions must be assessed: they must be reddened papules or plaques. And finally, this disease must occur especially during the spring and summer months.
How can it be prevented?
There is no 100% foolproof method to prevent sun allergy . However, there are a number of measures and guidelines that are worth taking into account to minimize the risk of developing this disease.
- Take care of the skin: of course, it is essential to protect the skin from the sun’s rays. For this, the use of sun protection creams with an SPF suitable for each skin type is recommended. You should also wear quality cotton hats and sunglasses.
- Accustom the skin: especially people with sensitive skin, they should accustom it to sunlight to minimize the risk of skin lesions appearing.
- Cosmetic products: regarding the use of cosmetic products, it is advisable to avoid perfumes and deodorants with a high content of chemical components. They increase the risk of developing a PLE, both in the short and long term.
Sun allergy should not be confused with solar urticaria as they are two different disorders. The latter does not occur only with sunlight, but can also develop as a result of exposure to artificial light. It is more common in men than women.
As for the symptoms, they appear immediately after exposure to light, natural or artificial. The most common are itching and redness . In the vast majority of cases, the lesions disappear in less than 24 hours.
As for the treatment of solar urticaria , it is aimed at enhancing the protection of the skin from the sun. Therefore, sunscreen must be applied, as well as wearing the appropriate clothing. Combating this disease in many cases is not easy since it can occur at any time, and even in closed places, with artificial light.
Solar allergy curiosities
Finally, we want to point out some curiosities about sun allergy.
- Progressive exposure to sunlight: dermatologists point out that this disease can be prevented if sufferers begin to sunbathe progressively before summer. During this season the light is more intense, so that various skin problems appear. Of course, the exhibitions must be done in a controlled way and, above all, not very widespread.
- Prevalence: the prevalence of this disorder mostly affects people with very fair skin. That is why allergy to the sun occurs especially in countries such as Sweden or Norway.
- Fruits: although it is not very common, symptoms can develop from contact with the juice of some fruits that contain a substance called coumarin. This substance becomes phototoxic when it comes in contact with sunlight and, if it touches the skin, it can cause itching, redness and pain.
- Treatment: and, finally, the most common treatment to combat sun allergy is with antihistamines and corticosteroids. They are the drugs most prescribed by dermatologists to relieve symptoms.
During the spring and summer months, the sun is essential for many people, who take advantage of the good weather to tan. However, there are some for whom the sun is their worst enemy. Those who suffer from a sun allergy suffer very noticeable symptoms at the slightest exposure to sunlight: plaques on the skin, redness, itching and pain.
People who suffer from this disease in many cases can never be exposed to ultraviolet light rays. These patients suffer symptoms, such as the appearance of red welts .
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.