What is photosensitivity?

Lupus Foundation of America

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Photosensitivity is the term used to describe sensitivity to the ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight and other light sources, such as indoor fluorescent light. Photosensitivity can cause rashes, fever, fatigue, joint pain, and other symptoms in people with both cutaneous (skin) and systemic lupus. UV rays are especially intense between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, at higher altitudes, and in or around the snow and the water. Excess exposure to UV rays is a common trigger for increased disease activity (flare) of both cutaneous lupus and systemic lupus.

How does photosensitivity affect people with lupus?

Each person with lupus is unique in terms of how exposure to the UV rays of the sun or fluorescent lights may affect them. Some individuals will have new or increased skin rashes or sores (lesions). Those with systemic lupus may have increased joint pain, fatigue, fever, and flu like symptoms.

There are many ways to reduce sun exposure, for example, using sun protector of broad spectrum SPF and sun protective clothing. However, it’s also important to try to stay away from direct sunlight between 10 am to 4 pm.

If you are going to be outdoors for longer than a few minutes, you must use sun block of at least SPF 30 that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Sunblock should be applied liberally, especially in the neck, forehead, and the ears- problem skin areas that are frequently affected in persons with lupus.

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