Light Sensitivity: Part 3, Conditions


Conditions Caused or Related to Light Sensitivity:

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer and pre-malignant conditions: A direct cause and effect relationship has been established between ultraviolet light and skin cancer. Melanoma is life threatening and the most common cancer for women age 25-29. It is the second most common cancer for women 30-34.  Melanoma has also been reported as having a 50% increase in death rates in men over 50 during the past 15 years. Photosensitive individuals, ranging from people with fair skin types to organ transplant patients, are at greater risk for skin cancer.


Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect single or multiple organ systems, especially the skin. Exposure to sunlight may result in the development of, or an increase in skin rash; more importantly, it may exacerbate the disease.  Patients require complete full spectrum sun protection.

Chemotherapy and Post Radiation Therapy:

Patients require complete full spectrum protection to help minimize specific drug-induced photosensitive reactions experienced secondary to chemotherapy and tissue damage as a result of radiation therapy.

Transplant Immunosuppressed Therapy:

Immunosuppression after an organ transplant often puts the patient at risk for the development of skin cancer. One transplant patient can develop many small skin cancers, resulting in an overall risk that one of these cancers can pose a problem and can even cause death if left untreated. Patients require complete full spectrum protection from all the damaging rays of the sun.

Post Laser Skin Resurfacing, Chemical Peels, Microdermabrasion:

These procedures render the skin more sensitive. Proper sun protection reduces vulnerability to photodamage and enhances the overall healing process. Without proper sun protection, outcomes may also be less than optimal.

Facial Cosmetic Surgery and Facial Trauma:

Patients require complete full spectrum protection from the sun’s damaging rays.


A pigmentation disorder in which melanocytes in the skin are destroyed. As a result, depigmented patches of skin appear. A single event, such as sunburn, can trigger this disorder. Treatment therapies for Vitiligo require that patients use complete full spectrum protection.


Rosacea is a chronic condition, aggravated by sunlight. The disease affects the skin of the face. It usually starts with redness on the cheeks and can slowly worsen to include one or more additional symptoms. Patients require full spectrum sun protection and are advised to use non-comedogenic facial products.

Polymorphous Light Eruption (PMLE):

An acquired disease; it is the most common of the idiopathic photodermatoses. PMLE is characterized by recurrent, abnormal, delayed reactions to sunlight ranging from erythematous papules, papulovesicles, and plaques to erythema multiforme–like lesions on sunlight-exposed surfaces.

Solar Urticaria:

An abnormal reaction to sunlight or artificial light. When exposed to light, the skin cells release potent chemicals (including histamine), causing blood vessels to open and fluid to collect within the skin. The skin feels itchy and has red patches, which may be swollen. These may look like wheals or a nettle rash and can take up to an hour to appear after exposure to light. They come on quickly and settle within a similar period.

Atopic Dermatitis:

A skin disease characterized by areas of severe itching, redness, scaling, and loss of the surface of the skin (excoriation). When the eruption (rash) has been present for a prolonged time, chronic changes occur due to the constant scratching and rubbing known as lichenification (thickening of the skin with accentuation of the skin lines to form a crisscross pattern).

Genetic and Congenital Diseases Causing Heightened Photosensitivity:

Bloom Syndrome:

A rare autosomal recessive disorder characterized by telangiectases and photosensitivity, growth deficiency of prenatal onset, variable degrees of immunodeficiency, and increased susceptibility to neoplasms of many sites and types

Cockayne’s Syndrome:

A rare inherited disorder characterized by growth retardation, photosensitivity, premature aging and early death. The extent and severity of the clinical symptoms vary in affected individuals. Onset of symptoms in the second year of life is heralded by a scaly erythematous eruption in the sun-exposed areas of the skin that may resolve, leaving hyperpigmentation or scarring.

Chediak-Higashi Syndrome:

An inherited disorder of the immune system that results in chronic infection, decreased pigmentation in skin and eyes, neurological disease, and early death.

Darier’s Disease (aka ‘keratosis follicularis’):

A rare genetic disorder that is manifested predominantly by skin changes. Onset of skin changes is usually in adolescence and the disease is usually chronic.


A chronic inflammatory disease of skin and muscle that is associated with patches of slightly raised reddish or scaly rash.

Oculocutaneous Albinism:

A hereditary disorder characterized by deficiency of the pigment melanin in the eyes, skin and hair. The lack of eye pigment causes photophobia (sensitivity to light), nystagmus, and decreased visual acuity.


Phenylketonuria (commonly known as PKU) is an inherited disorder that increases the amount of the amino acid phenylalanine to harmful levels in the blood. If PKU is not treated, excess phenylalanine can cause mental retardation and other serious health problems. Children with classic PKU tend to have lighter skin and hair than unaffected family members, because phenylalanine is important for skin pigmentation. Children with the disorder are also likely to have skin disorders such as eczema.


A diverse group of diseases in which the production of heme is disrupted. Porphyria is derived from the Greek word "porphyra", which means purple. When heme production is faulty, porphyrins are overproduced and lend a reddish-purple color to urine. All forms of porphyrias are inherited. The key clinical features are skin sensitivity to sunlight and/or by intermittent acute attacks of abdominal and nerve pain.

Rothmund-Thomson Syndrome:

An hereditary disease characterized by progressive degeneration (atrophy), scarring and abnormal pigmentation of the skin together with growth retardation, premature baldness, juvenile cataracts, depressed nasal bridge, and malformations of the teeth, hair, and bone.

Xeroderma pigmentosum:

A genetic disease that renders the body unable to repair ultraviolet damaged DNA. It is characterized by such extraordinary sensitivity to sunlight that it results in the development of skin cancer at a very early age. Children with xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) can only play outdoors safely after nightfall. They have been called midnight children, the children of the dark, the children of the night and, perjoratively, vampire children.

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