Sun Protection

National Stay Out Of The Sun Day 2019

Most people love the sun in the summer time but for some individuals who have lupus and autoimmune diseases like scleroderma and multiple sclerosis, the sun can be problematic.  Many patients with these autoimmune disorders complain of photosensitivity or extreme sensitivity to the sun.  For some patients, a skin rash may appear on the face or other sun exposed area like the ears, chest and back.

For some lupus patients, the sun can cause of flare of disease activity which may consist of fatigue, fever, joint pain and swelling and other cardiac and pulmonary symptoms.

Direct sunlight (UVA and UVB rays) as well as artificial and fluorescent light can trigger a flare

Why does this happen?

There is a process in which the body removes dead cells. Usually when skin and other cells are damaged from the sun or other agents, the cells go through a process called “apoptosis” or cell death.  In autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, there is an over activity of the immune system and this process of “cell death” may occur more frequently resulting in inflammation and other organ consequences. Some lupus patients also may have slower clearance of these cells. The increased amount of dead cells may linger around the body and trigger the immune system to activate. 

Lupus patients or patients with other connective tissue diseases may have worsening of skin lesions that may occur after a  few hours even up to a day after sunlight exposure.

What can patients with autoimmune diseases do to possibly reduce a chance of flare

1)Protect yourselves with clothing that blocks UVA and UVB rays!  Cotton, linen and rayon long pants and long sleeved shirts work well

2) Cover yourself up in sunscreen that resist UVA and UVB rays and reapply every couple of hours for maximum protection!  I usually suggest 30 SPF or greater.

3) Wear a large brim hat and sunglasses!  There are so many stylish accessories out there to wear.

4) Use an umbrella with special UV blocking powers!

5) Be aware of inside photocopy machines that project UV rays!  Close the cover when in use.

6) Be aware of medications !

 Antibiotics, anti inflammatory drugs, anti-hypertensives or other medications to treat arthritis and lupus like methotrexate  and hydroxychloroquine may enhance your sensitivity to the sun!

7) Stay indoors during the hottest time of the day.  After 3 pm or 4 pm may be a better time to venture out.

8) Stay cool if you are out by staying hydrated with ice water and spritzer bottles.

9) If you are taking a road trip, you may want to look into purchasing a UV light resistant film or shades for the car windows.

10) Choose low intensity light bulbs for indoor environments!

You can still enjoy summer but just take the necessary precautions! Make the right choices for your outside and inside lifestyle!