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Light Sensitive Eczema

In many people with the common type of eczema (‘atopic eczema’) that is particularly common in children, the eczema flares up in sunny weather. Sometimes this is because of humidity, heat and sweating, but in many people it is a direct worsening of the eczema caused by ultraviolet in sunlight. This is called ‘photoaggravated eczema’. A broad spectrum (i.e. UVA and UVB) sunscreen can help to reduce these flares in some patients. The flare of eczema is treated with the same ointments and creams as the ones used for non-sunlight related eczema.

There is a rarer type of sun-induced eczema where the skin is terribly sensitive to sunlight which causes severe eczema. This is called ‘chronic actinic dermatitis’. It most often begins in middle or old age. The eczema is very severe in some patients. It quite often does persist during the winter, but it may be very severe in the spring and summer with severe and often rather thick and itchy patches of eczema especially on the face and hands. The allergy is to ultraviolet in sunlight, usually UVB. The severity of the sunlight sensitivity means that sun protection with high factor sunscreens and sun avoidance are very important, but even with these measures the eczema can be difficult to control with ointments and creams and some patients need treatment with drugs that suppress the immune system to control the eczema. The test used to confirm that this is the diagnosis is Monochromator Phototesting. Many patients also develop allergies to various substances their skin encounters in the environment as well.

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