L38 — September 2011 — Polymorphous Light Eruption
Intro: Imagine this: Every time you go out into the sunlight to walk the dog or get the mail, your skin gets red, itchy and inflamed. That's what happens to people with a condition called polymorphous light eruption. To learn more about this skin issue, we'll head to Mayo Clinic.
Basically your skin doesn't like the sun anymore.
When Liza Torborg heads out to play with her son Charlie, she has to make sure she stays out of direct sunlight because of a condition called polymorphous light eruption.
This whole area would get red and inflamed and kind of look like it was welting.
Anytime Liza's skin is exposed to ultraviolet light for more than about 15 minutes, it happens.
It would be a huge red area over this entire, you know, inside and outside, it would be red and inflamed.
And very itchy.
It would wake me up at night; it was just so irritating.
Polymorphous light eruption is known by laypeople as sun allergy. In dermatology we call it P-M-L-E, and polymorphous light eruption is a delayed sensitivity of the immune system to ultraviolet light.
Dr. Dawn Davis says P-M-L-E is not a true allergic reaction to the sun. That condition is called sun urticaria, and it happens fast and symptoms can be worse. Instead, P-M-L-E happens minutes to hours after sun exposure and is more of a sensitivity to sunlight.
It happens in about 10 to 15 percent of people, mostly people who are Caucasian or of light skin color and who live in northern climates.
Here's what happens to your skin if you have this condition. Ultraviolet light hits the skin and a delayed hypersensitivity occurs, meaning that immune cells come from the bloodstream to the layer of the skin that separates the epidermis from the dermis. These immune cells release chemicals that then cause blood vessels to dilate, nerves to be stimulated and the skin to break down, and that leads to the redness and rash.
You can see it's kind of red and kind of scaly.
Dr. Davis says polymorphous light eruption is not dangerous. But it is annoying.
Oh my gosh, yes.
Liza wears sunscreen, and if she's in direct light, she always wears long sleeves and long pants to keep her skin covered. That's really the only way to prevent it. But for her, prevention is the key to a great afternoon outside with Charlie.
For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.
As for treatment when your skin is inflamed — well, there isn't anything that makes it all go away, except for time. But soothing lotions can help.
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