Photosensitivity: Learn How It Affects You

HK Vitals

Medically Reviewed By Dr. Aarti Nehra

Have you ever wondered how someone can develop an abnormal sensitivity to the sun, which causes skin damage and affects other organs? Why does our skin sometimes respond unexpectedly to the sun’s rays, converting an ordinary exposure into a problem with countless other factors?

In this blog, we will explore photosensitivity, its causes, and treatment options available to tackle this sensitive skin condition.

What is Photosensitivity? 

Photosensitivity, or sun allergy, is an unusual immune response to sunlight. The condition manifests through various symptoms, diseases, and conditions, highlighting an intricate interrelationship between the immune system and sunlight. This condition can be acute or chronic, with variations in symptoms.

Photosensitivity Causes

There are many causes for photosensitivity. Some of these include medications, skin conditions, and underlying medical problems. Here are some common causes of photosensitivity:

1. Medications and Sun Sensitivity

Drugs such as a few antibiotics, NSAIDs (anti-inflammatories), antihistamines, anti-anxiety medicines and some heart medicines can increase your sensitivity to the sun. Even cholesterol-lowering statins are believed to raise the incidence of adverse reactions from sunlight.

2. Skincare Pitfalls

To pursue clear skin, you should learn to avoid certain skincare ingredients. Products for fine lines and acne include ingredients such as retinol, glycolic acid, or benzoyl peroxide, which can peel off the outer skin layer. Furthermore, skin-brightening ingredients such as hydroquinone can reduce melanin levels and increase the sensitivity of skin to UV rays.

Diseases That Cause Photosensitivity

Listed below are some of the common diseases that may lead to photosensitivity:

1. Porphyria

Porphyria is a rare genetic disorder that affects the nervous system or skin. The porphyrins react differently to visible light than other substances do. Those with porphyria should also be extremely careful in sunlit places, for light can provoke symptoms. Knowing about this special trigger is critical in terms of management.

2. Lupus Erythematosus

Autoimmune diseases such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) are notorious for causing photosensitivity. Some people with lupus develop skin rashes and their symptoms worsen when they are exposed to sunlight.

3. Erythema Multiforme

This kind of skin disease, which is often caused by infections and medications, can be made worse when exposed to sunlight. People with erythema multiforme develop skin lesions and increased photosensitivity as well.

4. Atopic Eczema

Atopic eczema, a chronic skin disorder involving flaking and itching of skin, frequently worsens when there is prolonged exposure to sunlight. This condition, when untreated for long, can cause photosensitivity.

5. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disease that can be worsened by sunlight. Although exposure to moderate sunshine is sometimes recommended as a form of treatment, too much sun can aggravate the symptoms.

Photosensitivity Treatment

Photosensitivity, usually due to medications or underlying medical conditions, requires a careful treatment and prevention strategy. Some treatment and prevention measures are mentioned below:

1. Topical Corticosteroids

Applying corticosteroids and similar anti-inflammatory drugs to the inflamed skin can help reduce the severity of any reactions. However, this must be done under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

2. Histamine (H1) Blockers (Antihistamines)

The so-called antihistamines, or histamine blockers (block histamine), can be used to control allergic reactions arising from photosensitivity. These medicines relieve symptoms like itching and redness.

3. Sunscreen Use

To protect photosensitive skin from the damage caused by UV rays, it is necessary to use sunscreens frequently and liberally. Choose a sunscreen with an appropriate SPF rating and reapply as needed.

4. Discontinuation of Medication

Some classes of medications like antibiotics, anti-anxiety drugs, chemotherapy treatments, antidepressants, diuretics, antifungals and medicines used for the treatment of acne, heart, or blood pressure medicines are known to increase photosensitivity.

Consulting a healthcare professional about stopping such medicinal drugs is also crucial.


Photosensitivity is an extremely complicated condition with many underlying causes, ranging from medications to genetic factors. Recognition of the symptoms and understanding the conditions related to photosensitivity are basic to early diagnosis and treatment. If you suspect photosensitivity or have unusually strong reactions to light, seek proper evaluation and guidance from a healthcare professional.


HK Vitals


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