There are many different variations of lupus erythymatosus and among them the commonest would be the ‘Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)’ which is also considered the most serious. But, some lupus variants will be confined to the skin and therefore is termed as ‘cutaneous lupus’.
Lupus and photosensitivity:
A person who’s suffering from any form of lupus may be sensitive towards specific UV rays reaching the earth as sun light. Among these UV rays, UV-A and UV-B can be considered the most significant and such sensitivity may give rise to various skin manifestations or a flare up in susceptible individuals. Thus, photosensitivity or susceptibility towards UV light is a significant event when managing patients with lupus erythematosus. Furthermore, according to researchers, about 75% of lupus patients will develop photosensitivity and therefore would require adhering to preventive measures.
Effects of the sun on lupus patients:
One of the commonest complains by lupus sufferers is feeling ill following being in the sun for few hours and these symptoms may include headache, nausea, body aches…etc. At the same time, they may also be susceptible to more severe forms of sun burns following being in the sun for even short periods of time.
Skin manifestations related to UV light or sun’s rays may appear in many different forms and it may not confine itself to the characteristic ‘butter fly rash’. Thus, the manifestations may differ from one type of lupus to another and skin lesions such as coined shaped rashes, psoriasis like manifestations as well as tiny bleeding spots known as ‘petechiae’ may be visible following exposure to sun rays.
When talking about the characteristics of these skin lesions, they may itch and sometimes become scaly lesions. Although many would heal without scarring, photosensitivity rashes appearing on patients with discoid lupus may leave scars following healing.
Among all these manifestations, flare-ups can be termed as the most serious following exposure to sun. A flare-up may give rise to manifestations related to joints, blood vessels, heart, kidney, respiratory system as well as problems related to brain. The seriousness of these manifestations may depend on the type of lupus and it is essential to note than some of these flare-ups can even be fatal.
Need for protection:
When looking at the above mentioned outcomes following exposure to sun’s rays, it is obvious that patients suffering from lupus needs protection from the sun when in outdoors. Therefore, lupus patients should make it a point to wear wide brimmed hats, long sleeved shirts, sun protection cream as well as other necessary clothing when going outdoors during the day time. But, avoiding the times when UV rays will be at its maximum will be a better option if susceptibility to sun’s rays are evident.
Kuhn A, Beissert S (2005) Photosensitivity in lupus erythematosus, Autoimmunity,38(7):519-29.