Photosensitivity is a condition where blotchiness,
itching, or rash occurs when the skin is exposed to sunlight or
Symptoms of Photosensitivity
When exposed to sunlight, ultraviolet light for suntanning, and
in some people, even overhead fluorescent bulbs, the following
- Red blotches and bumps
Forms of Photosensitivity
Photosensitivity are classified into 4 categories:
- Phototoxic medication reaction
This is photosensitivity caused by the side effects of certain
medicines, such as:
- Doxycycline and tetracycline
- Quinolone medications, such as ciprofloxacin and ofloxacin
It can also be caused by the chemicals in certain food when
spilled or rubbed on the skin. These foods include:
- Photoallergy or photoallergic medication reaction
In this form, exposure to sunlight triggers an allergic reaction
in the exposed skin after they take certain medications. These
Other chemicals that can cause photoallergy are found in cosmetics,
soaps, perfumes, and lotions.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)
- Diuretics (water pills)
- Sulfa medications
- Polymorphous light eruption
In this form of photosensitivity, itchy and red rashes usually
form in the first few days of summer with intense sun exposures.
As the season continues and with more sun exposures, the skin
becomes resistant to rash breakouts.
This photosensitivity does not depend on prior use of medications
or topical chemicals. This condition usually develops between
the age of 20 and 40.
There is a condition similar to this form of photosensitivty
that is caused by lupus erythematosus, a disorder of the immune
system. Photosensitivity caused by lupus usually occurs thoroughout
the summer, whereas polymorphous light eruption occurs only
in the first few days of summer.
- Rare inherited conditions
These rare forms of photosensitivity include sun-induced hives
(solar urticaria) and several forms of porphyrias. In porphyrias,
elevated chemicals in the bloodstreams cause burning and stinging
of the skin when exposed to light.
Treatments of Photosensitivity
Photosensitivity caused by medications usually resolve itself
after the patient is no longer taking them. Take precautions when
going outdoors, such as by wearing protective clothings and hats
and using lotions with high SPF (sun protection factor).
To minimize the blisters and rashes, use a wet compress to soothe
the skin. To minimize itching, oral antihistamines as well as
prescription oral/topical corticosteroids can be used.