These measures may help prevent photodermatitis:
- Limit skin exposure to sun, especially intense midday sun.
- Use PABA free sunscreens that protect against UVA and have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 - 50.
- Cover up with a long sleeved shirt, long pants, and a wide brimmed hat.
- Beware of using any product that causes sun sensitivity. (If you are already taking a prescription medication, however, do not stop taking it without consulting your health care provider.)
- Do not use a tanning device (such as a tanning lamp or bed).
For blisters or weepy eruptions, apply cool, wet dressings. With certain types of photodermatitis, doctors may actually use phototherapy (controlled exposure to light for treatment purposes) to desensitize the skin or to help control symptoms.
For extremely sun sensitive patients, doctors may prescribe azathioprine to suppress the immune system. Short term use of glucocorticoids may help control eruptions. For those who cannot be treated with phototherapy, doctors may prescribe hydroxychloroquine, thalidomide, beta-carotene, or nicotinamide (see Nutrition section).
Note: Thalidomide causes severe birth defects and should never be used by women who are pregnant or wish to become pregnant.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Nutrition and Supplements
If you don't get enough of some nutrients, your skin can become sensitive to sunlight. Pellagra, for example, is caused by a niacin deficiency and leads to photosensitivity. Other nutrients, particularly antioxidants and flavonoids, may help protect skin against sun damage in healthy people. Antioxidants help remove free radicals, harmful byproducts that result from cells' use and generation of energy. Free radicals are linked to skin damage. Recent studies suggest that antioxidants, especially beta-carotene, may help lessen the symptoms of photodermatitis.
Some supplements and herbs may be beneficial for some people but cause side effects or undesired drug interactions in others. Always tell all of your health care providers about any supplement or CAM therapy you are using or considering using.
You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements:
- A multivitamin daily, containing the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, D, the B-complex vitamins. and trace minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, and selenium.
- B-complex vitamin, 1 tablet daily.
- Vitamin C, 1 - 6 gm daily, as an antioxidant. Vitamin C may interfere with vitamin B12, so take doses at least 2 hours apart. Lower the dose if diarrhea develops.
- Vitamin D, 200 - 400 I.U. daily.
- Probiotic supplement (containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and other beneficial bacteria), 5 - 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) a day, for maintenance of gastrointestinal and immune health. Some probiotic supplements may need refrigeration.
- Alpha-lipoic acid, 25 - 50 mg twice daily, for antioxidant support.
- Resveratrol (from red wine), 50 - 200 mg daily, for antioxidant support. Resveratrol might slow blood clotting so care should be taken with blood thinning medications, such as Coumadin (warfarin) and aspirin.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed and fish oils, 1 - 2 capsules or 1 - 2 tablespoonfuls oil daily.
Herbs are generally available as standardized, dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures/liquid extracts (alcohol extraction, unless otherwise noted). Mix liquid extracts with favorite beverage. Dose for teas is 1 - 2 heaping teaspoonfuls/cup water steeped for 10 - 15 minutes (roots need longer).
- Green tea (Camellia sinensis Holy basil Ocimum sanctum) standardized extract, 400 mg daily, for radiation protection. You can also prepare teas from the root.
- Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) standardized extract, 150 - 300 mg 1 - 3 times daily, for radiation protection. Rhodiola is an "adaptogen" and helps the body adapt to stress.
- Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) standardized extract, 250 - 500 mg 3 - 4 times daily, for radiation protection. Astragalus can interfere with lithium, among other medications; speak with your physician.
Herbs to avoid
Some herbs can cause photodermatitis, including:
- St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum)
- Angelica seed or root (Angelica archangelica)
- Arnica (Arnica montana)
- Celery stems (Apium graveolens)
- Rue (Rutae folium)
- Lime oil/peel (Citrusaurantifolia)
Few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. A professional homeopath, however, may recommend one or more of the following treatments for photodermatitis based on his or her knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type -- your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual.
- Aconitum napellus -- For a sudden rash, when the person feels anxious, frightened, and restless. Exposure to a cold, dry wind or sunlight may cause symptoms. If a rash breaks out suddenly and the person feels extremely anxious and apprehensive, this remedy may be indicated. Exposure to sunlight, or being out on a cold, dry, windy day, may precipitate symptoms. The rash may feel numb or itch, and stimulants may reduce the itching.
- Belladonna -- For a rash that comes on suddenly with a feeling of heat, and the face is flushed and burns. Belladonna is often used for sunstroke.
- Natrum carbonicum -- For a blistery rash that appears in patches. The person usually feels ill from exposure to the sun. They can be sensitive to changes in the weather and allergic to milk.
- Natrum muriaticum -- For those who feel tired after being in the sun, with headaches and a blotchy, itchy or burning rash. They may be thirsty and have a craving for salt. Symptoms tend to be worse in the morning.
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