After 4 days on a Florida beach in 2008 I got a skin rash caused by the sun. At that time doctors just diagnosed me with polymorphic light eruption, or your basic sun sensitivity. Looking back now, we know what really caused this: lupus.
Did you know that over two-thirds of people with lupus have some type of reaction to sunlight and UV rays? These reactions include butterfly rashes, rashes over areas of the body touched by the rays and thirdly, lupus flares.
Why is this? One job of a normal immune system is to get rid of old, dying or defective cells, which is called apoptosis. When your skin is exposed to ultraviolet light, it may cause your skin cells to die. In lupus patients, apoptosis seems to occur more often which may lead to inflammation in the skin, furthermore leading to a lovely pink rash. Inflammation may then cause a flare which can affect joints, muscles and other organs.
Protection from the sun is an important part of managing your disease, but that does not mean you have to become a vampire and deprive yourself of the outdoors and sunlight! You can still lead a healthy and active outdoor life.
Here are some tips and tricks to protect yourself!
Sunscreen! Every day, even when the sky is overcast. Make sure to use an SPF of 30 or more. Apply 30 minutes before you head outside, and make sure not to miss any spots. Stay out of the sun during the mid-day hours when the sun is strongest.
Wear a hat to protect your face and neck… but also your scalp! Lupus can cause hair loss or thinning which in turn leaves your scalp less covered. Wearing a hat will take care of this problem.
Get yourself some sun protective clothing. Make sure what you do wear has a tight weave. Normal manufactured cloths may not provide enough protection, but they now have specially made clothing with built-in SPF to help keep UV rays from permeating through to your skin. Be sure to follow the recommended cleaning directions for these particular types of clothing as the SP factor can be decreased dramatically by regular washing and drying.
Stay away from other sources of UV lights including fluorescent lights. And of course, tanning beds are not good for anyone, but are especially terrible for people with lupus.
Get your car and home windows tinted or use screens to help block the suns rays. I spend about 2 hours in my car a day… so you know what is next on my list to get done to my new car!
Be sure to ask your physician about medicines that may you more sensitive to light.
Here are some items and ideas I’d still like to try:
A nice, big sun blocking patio umbrella. So I can sit outside without worrying about the sun.