Exposing the skin for extended periods, while unprotected by sunscreen, can harm it in a multitude of ways ranging from premature aging to skin cancer. Another condition called photodermatoses is also a dangerous effect of prolonged time in the sun, but it isn’t as commonly discussed. Photodermatoses is often referred to as sun poisoning, and physicians practicing dermatology in Sterling Heights think more people should be aware of the different forms of this condition.


Most people have probably heard the term sun poisoning before, but they may not be aware of what it entails. This article will help explain the five different forms of photodermatoses, discuss the symptoms of each, and go over ways to prevent and treat sun poisoning.

The Variations of Sun Poisoning

Sun poisoning can have similar symptoms to a severe sunburn which is why many people often confuse the two at first. However, when the symptoms start to change or get more severe, it may be time to seek the care of a doctor specializing in dermatology. Patients should take note of the following conditions and their symptoms to better understand the differences between sunburns and sun poisoning.

  • Polymorphous Light Eruption: This condition which is sometimes simply called PMLE is fairly common. UVA and UVB rays can both be triggers. It more commonly occurs at the beginning of the warmer and sunnier seasons, as the skin can build a tolerance to sun exposure over time. People may notice a period of PMLE while vacationing in a warmer climate in the middle of their dreary winter. The symptoms of PMLE mainly include a rash on the exposed areas of skin with moderate to severe itching. The areas of the body most often affected are the forearms, thighs, sides of the face, the tops of the hands, and the area on the chest that is exposed by a V-neck shirt or bathing suit.
  • Photoallergic Reactions: When a person becomes allergic, or to a lesser extent sensitized, to medications or topical products the allergies can become more pronounced while in the sun. These allergies can also occur due to certain ingredients in sunscreen, and the effects seem to be more severe with UVA light than with UVB light rays. Another thing to note is that UVA rays are just as strong during the winter months as they are during the summer months.
  • Phototoxic Reactions: Similar in appearance to an acute sunburn, phototoxic reactions are more common than most people think. Experts in dermatology in Sterling Heights often warn of the possibility of phototoxic reactions occurring due to tetracycline derivatives. The mix of the tetracycline with sun exposure can cause redness, swelling, and blistering. The problem is most common on the tops of the hands, and it can be quite severe. Another substance that can cause these types of reactions is furocoumarin which is a chemical found in plants such as limes. Affected patients have found this reaction to occur after adding lime to beverages or food while on tropical vacations.
  • Solar Urticaria: This is the most severe form of sun poisoning, and it is a much less common occurrence. Physicians of dermatology stress that it can be triggered by any of the forms of UV light; however, it is most commonly associated with UVA rays. Those suffering from solar urticaria will notice hives after only a short session of being exposed to sunlight. It can lead to anaphylactic shock, especially if the entire body is exposed to UV rays such as when sunbathing on the beach.

Prevention and Treatment Options

Any doctor of dermatology in Grosse Pointe will stress that prevention is always the key when it comes to sun damage. The best course of action is to cover the skin with protective clothing or wear hats while outdoors. It is also important that people use a sunscreen with an SPF over 30 that covers the broad spectrum. It is essential that the skin is protected by UVA and UVB rays. It is also important to reapply sunscreen often, and places like the ears, back, neck, and the scalp should not be forgotten.

Dermatology specialists advise getting out of the sun as soon sun poisoning symptoms begin to occur. Those affected should then begin a regimen of proper hydration and taking ibuprofen to ease some of the milder symptoms associated with sunburns and sun poisoning. Cool baths and cool compresses may also be beneficial.

Aloe vera gel or some other dermatologist-approved cream may be used on the skin to help cool the sunburn. If the symptoms are severe or long-lasting it is important to seek care from a clinic that specializes in dermatology to help manage and treat the symptoms.

Grosse Pointe Dermatology and Cosmetic Center

Those seeking help Sterling Heights, Grosse Pointe, Detroit, or the surrounding areas to relieve the effects of sun poisoning or deal with the damaging effects of sun exposure on the skin will want to find a trusted dermatologist with experience creating individualized treatment programs for sun poisoning. A dedicated physician will work to repair the sun damage and relieve uncomfortable symptoms.

Prolonged sun exposure can cause premature aging, sunspots, and fine lines. There are plenty of treatments that can be done, and many of them can restore the skin back to a youthful and healthy glow. The uneven skin tone and the dark sunspots can be minimalized, while the dull and dry look of the skin can be improved. The physicians can also thoroughly check the skin for the possible development of skin cancers and can treat them promptly.

It is important for every person who may have damaged the skin due to sunburns or sun poisoning get a consultation from a board-certified dermatologist to ensure the skin is healthy and protected. Even more importantly, it is important for everyone planning to enjoy the sun to take precautions and protect their skin from the harmful effects of prolonged sun exposure.