What is photodermatitis ? Is it curable?

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What is Photodermatitis?

Photodermatitis is often called as sun allergy or light allergy. It’s an abnormal reaction of skin when exposed to sunlight or ultraviolet rays.

The allergen on the skin reacts and activated by light, so is the name derived from. It can either be sudden or chronic, depending on the person who has them. The symptom of the light allergy photodermatitis will show right away upon sun exposure.

It can occur when your immune system reacts to the sun’s ultraviolet rays that will cause developing symptoms. You may suffer from rashes, blisters, or even scaley patches on your skin when exposed to the sun. Exposure may vary depending on the person who suffers from this skin condition.

Photodermatitis Symptoms

There are symptoms that you will notice to determine if you have photodermatitis. It can be more evident since the skin is involved, so you should see it with your own eyes.

If you noticed these symptoms below, make sure to go to the doctor right away and seek professional help.

  1. You will notice and feel itchy bumps, blisters, or raised areas on the skin.
  2. There will be some lesions that look like eczema.
  3. Hyperpigmentation or dark patches on your skin will be noticeable.
  4. The areas of skin that are exposed to sunlight will develop breakouts.
  5. You will feel some pain, redness, and swelling on the skin that has been exposed.
  6. Other symptoms are chills, headache, fever, and even nausea
  7. The long term effects will include thickening, scarring of the skin, and increased risk of skin cancer if it’s genetic.


Causes of Photodermatitis

  1. Current Disease

Like any other disease, photodermatitis has several causes that may vary in each individual. It can be a result of other conditions such as Lupus or eczema, which makes the skin to be sensitive to light. Another cause may be genetic since some diseases can be inherited if some members of your family tree happen to suffer from Pellagra, which is a disease caused by a lack of vitamin B3 or Niacin.

  1. Reaction from Medications

Some drugs or medications can cause you to develop photodermatitis. It can cause your skin to get sunburned quickly or look like eczema. It can also be an allergic reaction that you may develop from the medication that you are taking. The allergic reaction may be from a sunscreen with PABA, perfumes, lavender, and some industrial cleaners that contains salicylanilide.

Antibiotics, tetracycline, and sulfonamides can cause a direct toxic effect. Antifungals griseofulvin, coal tar derivatives, and psoralens used topically for psoriasis. Retinoids like tretinoin and medications with retinoic acid that is used for acne. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), chemotherapy agents, sulfonylureas, and oral medicines used for diabetes. Antimalarial drugs, like quinine and other medications, are used to treat Malaria. Diuretics and antidepressants, like tricyclics which are used for depression. An antipsychotic drug such as phenothiazines and anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines.

How Treatments Work for Photodermatitis

Photodermatitis Treatment


  1. Treatments at Home

You can have a treatment at home if your suffering from photodermatitis. However, it would be best if you also had yourself checked first before trying self-treatment. If you have skin blisters or weepy eruptions, you can apply a cold and wet dressing to relieve it. But there is some alternative therapy that you can do at home.


Since some nutritional deficiency may cause your skin to be more sensitive to light, you can work on having enough nutrients as a treatment. Some researches show that antioxidant and beta carotene may lower the severity of this condition. Below are other nutrients needed to avoid the skin to be photosensitive.

  • Beta-carotene and some carotenoids plus vitamin E can improve the skin.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil proves to make skin less light sensitive.
  • Protein can help this skin condition’s symptoms disappear.
  • Vitamin B3 or nicotinamide can avoid skin lesion even after sun exposure.
  • Vitamins C and E can reduce UVV rays skin reactions.
  • Vitamin D can protect damage caused by UV rays.


  • Green Tea for its antioxidant properties.
  • Calendula can treat skin conditions such as sunburns.



Although it’s not yet scientifically proven, homeopathic remedies can help to prevent or treat photodermatitis. Since it is believed in homeopathy that the body can cure itself, it’s also a good alternative instead of taking chemical prescriptions.


  1. Going to the Doctor and Taking Medication


Depending on the severity of the patient’s condition, doctors will even use phototherapy as a treatment. It will desensitize the skin and control the symptoms of photodermatitis. In extreme cases, azathioprine will be prescribed to suppress the immune system. If the patient cannot be treated using phototherapy, hydroxychloroquine, thalidomide, beta-carotene, or nicotinamide will be prescribed.

Your doctor can prescribe topical treatments such as creams with corticosteroids. But for severe cases, prednisone, which is an oral treatment, can be prescribed instead. Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) is a Malaria treatment that can also be advised to ease the symptoms of this sun sensitivity allergy. You also have to expect that the doctor will have to ask you several questions to ensure that the diagnosis is indeed photodermatitis.

Ways to Prevent It

It may sound like a cliche, but prevention is always better than cure. If you dont want to suffer from photodermatitis, you have to follow the ways to avoid developing it if possible. Below is some way to prevent yourself from developing this skin condition.

  1. Avoid too Much Sun Exposure

If you can’t help it, make sure to only get out in the sun when it’s not so intense. Avoid getting out during midday where the sun is shinning at most. It’s not healthy for your skin, and it may cause it to break out.

  1. Use Sunscreen When Going Out

It’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure to put some sunscreen before going out. You can go for the one with SPF 30 to 50 at least. Choose a sunscreen that’s PABA-free to avoid developing photodermatitis.

  1. Wear Clothes to Cover Up

Going out of the sun, especially during summer, is tempting. But make sure to wear some clothes that wil cover most parts of your skin. A wide-brimmed hat will also be an excellent way to avoid getting too much of the harmful UV rays on your face.

  1. Stop Using Tanning Device

Sure, you want to have your tan since nothing is sexier than tanned skin. But if you’re going to achieve that, don’t use a tanning device. Using a tanning lamp or laying down in a tanning bed can make your skin to become more sensitive to light.

  1. Beware of Skin Products

Always choose the right skincare products to ensure that it will not cause sun sensitivity for your skin. It’s better if you will consult a dermatologist first before getting some. You may also need to check your medication with your doctor to avoid getting some reaction from the prescription.

Who is at Risk

  • People with a Fair Skin Complexion

Some skin types can be more at risk compared to others. People with lighter skin complexion, blonde hair, and also those with blue or green eyes are more sensitive to UV rays. Since the melanin production on their skin is not as active as those who have a darker skin type, it can pose a risk when they get out of the sun.

  • Those Who Have Prolong Exposure to Sunrays

Some people need to work in the field; therefore, it means prolonged exposure to the sun’s harmful rays. It’s best to wear appropriate and protective clothing if you are one of them to lessen the risk of developing photodermatitis. Sunscreen that is PABA-free will also help if you don’t have a choice but to work under the sun.

  • People Who are Exposed to UV rays from 11 AM to 2 PM

During these hours, is when the UV rays from the sun are more intense. So it’s better to stay indoors if you don’t need to go out. It can even be intensified during the summer. If you are a beachgoer, make sure to avoid sun exposure during these times to lower the risk of developing photodermatitis.

Possible Complications

Photodermatitis possible complications may not be as much as other types of diseases. If it’s just a mild allergic reaction, it can go away in a few days or weeks. However, if the symptom is already under extreme conditions, it can be continuous for a long time and even years, even after the exposure stopped. Below are the possible complications of photodermatitis.

  • It may result in chronic photodermatitis if it’s ongoing photosensitivity.

If it’s left untreated and continuous exposure to UV rays occurs, the skin condition will continue to escalate.

  • Noticeable skin discoloration or hyperpigmentation will still occur.

Even the inflammation is gone, it can still show visible discoloration of the affected area. Hyperpigmentation will also occur.

  • Skin will suffer from pre-mature aging.

Since the skin is more sensitive to light, it means that the skin’s natural look will not be as younger and better looking.

  • It might develop as skin cancer or melanoma.

In severe cases, photodermatitis may escalate to skin cancer if no treatment has been made, and continue exposure happens.



Photodermatitis can be avoided to ensure that you will not suffer form it. If you can prevent it from developing, then it’s the best way to go. Although there are medications that result in light sensitivity, you can always check with your doctor if you can get an alternative prescription instead. That way, your skin will not be too sensitive to UV light, and you can still have fun outdoors.

Although it’s fun to get out of the sun, especially during the summer months, it’s still better to protect your skin from suffering. Remember, preventing a disease is the best way to avoid the need for treatments due to the discomfort you will feel from having photodermatitis. Even if you have a darker complexion and not into much risk, don’t overexpose yourself out there. It’s better to have healthy glowing skin than to need to have it treated.

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