The Link Between Sun Sensitivity and Lupus

The Link Between Sun Sensitivity and Lupus

Lupus is a complex disorder of the immune system that affects approximately 1.5 million Americans of all ages. Although most people with lupus are women who’ve developed it between the ages of 15-44, lupus can strike anyone at any age.

Complicating the disease is the fact that people with lupus tend to be more sensitive to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays than people without lupus. In fact, within days of sun exposure, you can have a lupus attack that ranges from mild to severe.

At the Rheumatology Center of New Jersey, we aim to keep your lupus flares in check so you can live a full and rich life. You may have noticed already that your disease is triggered by sunlight. Or maybe you’re not sure if you have sun sensitivity. 

If you have lupus, here’s what you should know about the sun.

UVA and UVB rays damage your DNA

Whether you have lupus or not, if you’re exposed to the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, your skin’s cellular DNA is affected and damaged. In fact, DNA damage due to sunburns and other sun exposure is the prime factor behind sun-induced skin cancers.

If you have lupus, your skin cells are more sensitive than average to DNA damage from the sun. A healthy immune system clears out DNA-damaged cells. But if you have lupus, the dead cells linger and trigger a disease flare.

The most common reaction caused by lupus’s photosensitivity is a rash. You may also experience:

To complicate matters, many people with lupus aren’t just triggered by the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Even the UV light from fluorescent or incandescent bulbs can bring on an attack.

How to know if you’re sun sensitive

About two-thirds of patients with lupus have some degree of photosensitivity. In one small study, 83% of people with lupus reported that they had sun sensitivity. Often, they didn’t develop symptoms until several days after sun exposure.

If you have antibodies to the antigens Ro and La (aka SSA and SSB), you’re more likely to be photosensitive. 

If you don’t have those antibodies and you haven’t noticed that sunlight triggers your symptoms, you can experiment with a small amount of sun exposure during the early morning and late afternoon.

After a few days, if you don’t have any symptoms, you can gradually increase your sun exposure. Still, of course, engage in sun-safe behaviors. Call your rheumatologist right away if you have a flare. Sun-induced lupus flares are usually mild, but they can be debilitating.

Protect yourself from UV light

Even without being concerned about increased photosensitivity, you should practice sun safety by limiting your UVA and UVB exposure. If you haven’t already adopted the following sun-safe behaviors, do so now:

If you’ve noticed that indoor lighting also triggers attacks, you may need to make modifications to your home or office. Suggestions include:

Also, review your medications with us. Some drugs increase photosensitivity. 

Find out more about how to protect yourself from photosensitivity and reduce lupus attacks by contacting your nearest Rheumatology Center of New Jersey office. We have locations in Somerville, Flemington, and Monroe, New Jersey.

You Might Also Enjoy...

5 Things That Put You at Risk for Lupus

Whether lupus runs in your family or you know somebody who has it, you may wonder, “Am I next?” Although nobody knows exactly what causes lupus, certain factors put you at increased risk for developing this autoimmune disease.

What to Expect During Your Bone Scan

If you’re ready for your first bone scan, you may wonder what’s involved. Will it hurt? Does it take a long time? Do you have to prepare ahead of time? A bone scan is an essential part of keeping tabs on your health as you age. Here’s what to expect.

Is Arthritis Hereditary?

You love family gatherings for the good food, good vibes, and all the memories you share and make. But you’ve noticed something: A lot of your older relatives have arthritis. Their gnarled fingers and hobbling gaits worry you. Are you next?

Eating Tips to Help Minimize Gout Flare-Ups

Gout is a form of arthritis in which needle-like crystals form in the soft tissues of your joints, particularly your big toe joint. If you’ve had an attack of gout, the last thing you want is another. Here’s how to reduce gout flare-ups.

Is Your Hair Loss Due to Lupus?

When you start losing your hair, you might think it’s just due to aging or to hormonal changes. But hair loss can be a symptom of a serious autoimmune disease called lupus. Untreated, lupus may damage your skin, organs, and joints.