What is photosensitivity?

Fact Checked

Photosensitivity is described as significant sensitivity to the ultraviolet rays of the sun and other sources of light. Many are at risk for ending up with sunburn during prolonged exposure to the sun.


Being exposed to the UV rays from the sun can also result to skin damage and even skin cancer. Individuals with photosensitivity might end up with burns or skin rashes even after limited sun exposure.

What are the types?

There are some chemicals that can add up to sensitivity to the sun. These can cause 2 forms of photosensitivity.

  • Phototoxic – the phototoxic reactions are triggered if a new chemical in the body interacts with the UV rays of the sun. Certain drugs such as tetracycline or doxycycline are the usual cause for this type of reaction. This causes a skin rash the same as a severe sunburn that manifests within 24 hours of sun exposure.
  • Photoallergic – this reaction arises as a side effect of some drugs. A reaction also develops due to chemicals present in beauty products and sunscreen. In this reaction, it takes a few days for the rash to manifest after exposure.
    An over-the-counter pain medication can be given to lessen the pain and a corticosteroid cream to reduce the inflammation.

What are the signs?

The indications of photosensitivity range from minor to serious. The usual sign is an amplified form of skin rash or sunburn. The rashes might or might not trigger itchiness. In some instances, a sunburn might be serious that blisters starts to form. Peeling and weeping skin can also occur in serious cases.

The degree of exposure to the sun needed for a reaction to occur tends to vary. In some, limited exposure can trigger a rash or burn. In some, extended exposure can trigger a reaction.

Management of photosensitivity

Once a skin reaction occurs, the treatment is aimed on lessening the discomfort and inflammation of the skin. An over-the-counter pain medication can be given to lessen the pain and a corticosteroid cream to reduce the inflammation.

Some of the chemicals that causes photosensitivity must be avoided. These are likely found in some products and drugs.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The information posted on this page is for educational purposes only.
If you need medical advice or help with a diagnosis contact a medical professional

  • All firstaidcprmississauga.ca content is reviewed by a medical professional and / sourced to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

  • We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable websites, academic research institutions and medical articles.

  • If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please contact us through our contact us page.