Sun-Sensitive Drugs (Photosensitivity to Drugs) (cont.)

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How is sun sensitivity (photosensitivity) diagnosed?

The diagnosis is mainly made by a thorough history, examination, and review of the medications and duration of exposure to sun. It is important to ask when the medication was started and for how long the symptoms persisted.

There are no diagnostic tests available, although a photo-patch test may be performed. This test is typically performed by a dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in diseases of the skin) by shining light onto different areas of the skin to see how long it will take for the light to cause redness. This test may be useful in evaluating photosensitivity to topical medications causing a photoallergic response. In cases of phototoxicity reactions, this test is generally not useful.

What is the treatment for a photosensitizing drug reaction?

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Recognizing and discontinuing the photosensitizing drug is the most important step in treatment. In general, the usual sunburn prevention methods such as the use of sunscreens and avoidance of prolonged exposure to sun are important steps to take. Keeping the area of skin eruption moist and applying wet dressings may help relieve the symptoms. The reaction may last up to a few weeks.

Topical steroid creams may be helpful in treating the redness, and antihistamines are generally helpful in minimizing the itching. In severe cases, a short course (10-14 days) of oral steroids, under the direction of a doctor, can be used.

Is anyone taking these drugs at risk for developing sunburn?

Not everyone taking any of these drugs will develop photosensitivity reactions. Certain individuals have more susceptibility to these medications than others.

Can any foods or plants cause sun sensitivity (photosensitivity) reactions?

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Some vegetables and plants may cause sun sensitivity if they come into contact with the skin. Mango peel, lime juice, parsnips, or celery, for example, may cause temporary discoloration (darkening) of the skin contact area when in the sun. Common phototoxic fruits and vegetables include:

  • Lime
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Figs
  • Parsley
  • Parsnips
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/5/2014

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Sun-Sensitive Drugs - Phototoxic Drugs Question: If you had a sun-sensitive reaction to a drug, what was the medication? What were your symptoms?
Sun-Sensitive Drugs - Symptoms Question: Describe your reaction or symptoms to a sun-sensitive medication. When did symptoms appear?
Sun-Sensitive Drugs - Treatment Question: What types of treatment, including other medications, did you receive after experiencing a sun-sensitive drug reaction?
Sun-Sensitive Drugs - Foods and Plants Question: Do certain vegetables, fruits, or plants cause you to have a photosensitivity reaction? Discuss your experience.