Photosensitivity: It’s Not Just About Sunburn
I remember the first time sunlight landed me in the doctor’s office.
We were down the shore, in Wildwood Crest, NJ, and I’d spent a lovely morning on the beach. After a long school year, a dip in the freezing Atlantic and some basking in the sun felt just right, and I fell into a blissful semi-zoned state.
At lunch, back in our rental house, what looked like sunburn appeared on my arms, my chest, my legs. My face started burning, hot and itchy. Sunburn, I thought.
By late afternoon, the rash had spread to my abdomen, my back. Everywhere. It was swollen and hot. It hurt. I was exhausted and short of breath. My head ached.
Eventually, I found my way to a clinic where a young doctor told me I was having an allergic reaction to the sun. He put me on prednisone and suggested that I avoid the sun.
I sulked. In private, I cried. I felt lousy, and now I was supposed to stay out of the sun on the one beach trip of the year.
It happened the next year, too.
These experiences seemed weird and random until my lupus diagnosis a couple years ago. Photosensitivity is so much more than sunburn; the sun actually sends my body into an autoimmune tizzy, and it’s so common in lupus patients that it’s one of the diagnostic criteria.
So here it is, September, and I’m as pale as I was in April. I still crave that golden glow I used to get each summer, but I’m beginning to see my ghostly pallor as a sign that I’m doing what I need to do to protect myself from the sunlight-induced lupus flares.
I thought the following sites had some useful information about the real danger of photosensitivity and how to handle, as odd as it sounds, sunny days.