Photosensitivity: Know The Difference Between Photo-Toxicity & Photo-Allergy

By Skin & Hair Academy  |   September 25, 2017

The damaging effects of sunlight upon the skin and body have been well documented over the years. More specifically, photosensitivity—also known as a sun allergy—is an immune system reaction that is brought on by exposure to sunlight. 

Here is everything you need to know about photosensitivity:

1. What causes photosensitivity?
photosensitivityThere could be a few causes for photosensitivity reactions in individuals. In some people, this tendency could be inherited. There is also a kind of drug-induced photosensitivity, where an individual becomes more prone to a photosensitivity reaction upon taking certain drugs, such as anti-anxiety drugs or antibiotics.

 

2. What are the symptoms of photosensitivity?
sun allergy There are essentially two types of photosensitivity reactions: phototoxicity and photoallergy. 

Phototoxicity, which is much more common than photoallergy, is characterized by redness, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation that develops within hours of sun exposure. This is different from sunburn, as it happens only when the individual has taken certain drugs that induce this reaction.

Photoallergy is a typical allergic skin reaction characterized by itching, redness, and scaling. This happens as a result of using certain products, such as aftershave lotion, sunscreen or sulfonamides, which when exposed to the sun cause this reaction. Photoallergy develops within one to three days of exposure to sunlight. 

3. What are the forms of photosensitivity treatment?
photosensitivity treatmentPhotosensitivity can cause lasting skin damage and can potentially lead to skin cancer. Therefore, it is recommended that a dermatologist diagnose the photosensitivity so that it can be effectively prevented and treated.
Avoiding prolonged exposure to sunlight, wearing protective clothing (full sleeves, hats, gloves), using an umbrella on sunny days, applying safe and effective sunscreens, and eliminating the drugs that cause photosensitivity are some of the ways to prevent and treat the problem.

If you are on medication that can potentially cause photosensitivity, or if you tend to spend prolonged periods of time in the sun, it is best to have your dermatologist test you for photosensitivity, so that you can protect your skin in the best way possible. 


Reference links:
1.Phototoxicity and photoallergy-https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10604793 
2. Phototoxic Reactions Versus PhotoAllergic Reactions- http://www.skincancer.org/publications/photosensitivity-report/phototoxic-reactions-versus-photoallergic-reactions
3. Photosensitivity Reactions- http://www.msdmanuals.com/home/skin-disorders/sunlight-and-skin-damage/photosensitivity-reactions


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