Photodermatitis


Photodermatitis

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Alternative Name: Actinic dermatitis.

Photodermatitis is an abnormal skin reaction to sunlight, or more specifically to ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB rays of the sun). It can be acute or chronic. Photodermatitis occurs when your immune system reacts to UV rays. You may develop a rash, blisters, or scaly patches. Exposure levels and reactions differ for every person. Several factors can make your skin sensitive to light UV rays, including having an inherited tendency to photosensitivity, taking certain medications, or being exposed to plants in the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family, including weeds and edible plants, such as hogweed, cowbane, carrot, parsnip, dill, fennel, celery, and anise.

The exact cause photodermatitis is still unknown, it may caused by a variety of factors such as certain medications (antibiotics), coal tar derivatives, retinoids, antidepressants, sulfonylureas, anti-anxiety medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. While taking these medications some of their components may accumulate in the skin and after exposure to sun trigger the reaction of the immune system and consequently cause photodermatitis.

Furthermore, photodermatitis may also occur due to certain fragrance and chemicals applied onto the skin.

Risk factors may include:

    Diseases, such as lupus or eczema that makes skin sensitive to light and increase risk for photodermatitis

  • Genetic or metabolic factors (caused by lack of niacin, vitamin B3).

  • Diseases, such as polymorphic light eruptions, characterized by sensitivity to sunlight.

  • Reactions to chemicals and medications.

  • In reaction to UV rays, certain chemicals and drugs can cause sunburn, an eczema-like reaction, or hives. The reaction may be related to an allergy, or it may be a direct toxic effect from the substance.

The most important thing that you need to keep in mind when you are suffering from photodermatitis is that the threat of dehydration is quite serious and the best way to minimize the symptoms and effects of exposure is by keeping yourself well hydrated. Getting away from the sunlight is of course equally important. Following these measures will help to minimize the risks of scarring and also ensure better healing.

Symptoms:

    Symptoms may vary from simple redness or eruptions to oozing and blister formation.

  • Lesions that resemble eczema.

  • Dark patches on your skin (hyperpigmentation).

  • Pain, redness, and swelling.

  • Chills, headache, fever, and nausea in some cases.

  • Long term effects include thickening and scarring of the skin and an increased risk of skin cancer, if the cause is genetic.

Diagnosis:

    As photodermatitis is caused by sunlight as well as artificial UV light from tanning beds, it can be difficult to find the source of the problem. One helpful way to proceed with the diagnosis is to check the condition of the unexposed parts of the skin such as skin under a watchstrap or bracelets. Further diagnosis is done by photo testing, which consists of having various areas of skin exposed to known amounts of light of specific wavelengths and comparing the resulting reactions with that caused by the disease. The procedure is painless and can be repeated to assess improvement.

  • Patch testing is another common way of confirming photodermatitis. A range of chemicals is applied to the skin and left for two days. The skin is then examined for reactions.

  • Skin biopsy may be required if there is an underlying medical problem.

Treatment:

Treatment of photodermatitis will depend on the severity of the condition. Generally, application of ice pack or cold compress may help to control the irritation and photodermatitis rash, caused by sun exposure. However, hypersensitivity to sunlight can require a proper treatment plan with appropriate drugs or medications. The medications that are usually prescribed for this condition work by suppressing the immune system in order to prevent the immune reaction to sunlight. Sometimes, glucocorticoids are used to control the symptoms.

Apart from medications patients may also benefit from nutritional supplements such as vitamin B3, vitamin C, D and E, beta carotene, omega- 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and proteins.

Herbal treatment may include:

    Green tea (Camellia sinensis Holy basil Ocimum sanctum) standardized extract, 400 mg daily, for radiation protection. You can also prepare teas from the root.

  • Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) standardized extract, 150 - 300 mg 1 - 3 times daily, for radiation protection. Rhodiola is an "adaptogen" and helps the body adapt to stress.

  • Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) standardized extract, 250 - 500 mg 3 - 4 times daily, for radiation protection. Astragalus can interfere with lithium, among other medications; speak with your physician.

Preventive Measures:

    Always take medications only as prescribed, and avoid ultraviolet light exposure as much as possible while using known photosensitizers.

  • Do use PABA-free sunblocks (para-aminobenzoic acid), sunscreens, hats, and long sleeves to minimize the effects of unavoidable exposure.

  • Do limit the amount of limes, celery, carrots, and figs in your diet, because these contain natural psoralen (sun sensitizers).

  • Do avoid PABA- and musk-containing skin products.

  • Do avoid "natural" fruit-based skin lotions and cosmetics, because they may contain sensitizers as well.

  • Do check with your doctor before using any tanning device, no matter how "safe" the manufacturer says it is.

Disclaimer: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.

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