Lupus causes all kinds of grief. In the summer, many people with Lupus must also contend with photosensitivity, an extreme sensitivity to sunlight which is caused by some medical conditions and drugs.
Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE, is a disease which causes chronic inflammation in connective tissue. Lupus most often hits women between 20 and 50 years of age.
Photosensitivy can affect areas of skin that have been exposed to sun. Skin lesions will often emerge on these areas. The lesions can be lumps, plaques, purple areas, and red scaly patches of skin. They can eventually cause scarring and loss of skin pigment, even hair loss.
Dermatitis in the form of skin rashes can appear, usually on the face, upper chest and outer arms.
A photosensitive reaction can be photoallergic (phototoxic) or photoallergic.
A phototoxic reaction manifests as a bad sunburn, within 24 hours of exposure to the sun. A photoallergic reaction doesn't appear for up to three days after exposure because the immune system takes that long to create a response. Red bumps, lesions and scaling are some of the symptoms.
Little is known about why the photosensitivity phenomenon plagues some of those with SLE, though there are some theories.
It may be that skin cells are expressing particular proteins because of exposure to UV light. Antibodies then attract white blood cells which cause damage to skin cells. The end result of all this is inflammation. Cell death is the next stage, which causes further inflammation, leading to rashes and burns.
Photosensitivity can trigger Lupus flares with symptoms like fatigue and joint pain. About.com said that unless this situation is treated, skin cancer can develop.
All of this can make summer a dismal prospect. So what is the person with Lupus to do? Unfortunately the best advice seems to be simply to stay out of the sun and protect their skin as best they can.
Totally avoiding the summer sun is a tall order. If that is impossible, staying out of the sun during the peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. can make a difference.
Summer seems made for tiny tops and shorts but if you have SLE, resist the temptation. Loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and long pants offer some protection to your skin, as does a wide-brimmed hat. Sunscreen and hypoallergenic makeup with UV protectors may provide some benefit.
Be aware that you can get hit with UV light inside your house, from fluorescent tube lights, halogen lights and CFL lights. And believe it or not, you should avoid the light emanating from inside an office copier.
If you're on medication, take it as your doctor instructs. Learn all you can about the medications recommended to you. You'll have less risk for Lupus flares if you avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Minocycline, hydralazine, carbamazepine, lithium, sulphonamides and phenytoin are some medications that can trigger flares. Often, when the medications are no longer taken, symptoms go away.
Photosensitivity. Skin Cancer Foundation. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
Photosensitivity and Caring for Your Skin. About.com Health. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
Visit Jody's website at http://www.ncubator.ca
Reviewed July 24, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN