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Reactions to sunlight
Sunburn:
The most obvious reaction to sunlight is sunburn, which appears within a few hours of exposure to intense sunshine. In babies and small children, quite mild sunshine can produce sunburn. The connection with bright sunshine means that it is usually easy to distinguish sunburn from eczema. The speed of the reaction and the typical unpleasant tingling are also slightly different.
Polymorphic light reaction:
This is usually seen in adolescents and young adults. It affects the backs of hands, forearms, top of the feet and the exposed part of the legs. The V of the neck is typically affected and, although the face is very exposed to sun, it may be only the nose, chin and top of cheeks that develop the rash. It comes on quite quickly after sun exposure, usually quicker than sunburn, and is bumpy and red. There is a clear cut-off at the edge of clothing and straps, showing that sun is the cause. The condition is worst in the first month or two of summer but the skin gets used to sunshine and the reaction usually disappears by mid-summer or autumn. Unlike sunburn, there is no blistering, scaling, soreness or tightness. The redness may last for several days or longer. People who tan quite easily, even those with dark skin, may still get polymorphic light reaction.

Polymorphic light eruption is probably caused by a genetic predisposition to develop an allergic reaction to a substance in the skin that is chemically altered by UV radiation, and therefore appears foreign to the body.




Lupus erythematosus:

This is a rare condition, in which there is a marked reaction to sunlight that can produce scaling, redness and sometimes itch. These three features mean that it could quite easily be confused with eczema. However, lupus gets worse in sunshine and, although there is some itch, it is seldom intense.



Lupus erythematosus is a rare autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own tissues on parts of the body exposed to sunlight.