Health Condition


About This Condition

People with photosensitivity have an immunological response to light, usually sunlight. They typically break out in a rash when exposed to sunlight; how much exposure it takes to cause a reaction varies from person to person. Several conditions, such as erythropoietic protoporphyria and polymorphous light eruption, share the common symptom of hypersensitivity to light—also typically sunlight.

People taking certain prescription drugs (sulfonamides, tetracycline, and thiazide diuretics) or herbs (St. John’s wort, for example) and those with systemic lupus erythematosus have increased susceptibility to adverse effects from sun exposure.


Symptoms may include a pink or red skin rash with blotchy blisters, scaly patches, or raised spots on areas directly exposed to the sun. The affected area may itch or burn, and the rash may last for several days. In some people, the reaction to sunlight gradually becomes less with subsequent exposures.

Other Therapies

Other treatment includes the avoidance of direct sunlight and the use of sunscreen. In addition, individuals should avoid medications and substances that are known to cause photosensitivity.


1. Mathews-Roth MM, Pathak MA, Fitzpatrick TB, et al. Beta-carotene as an oral photoprotective agent in erythropoietic protoporphyria. JAMA 1974;228:1004-8.

2. Nordlund JJ, Klaus SN, Mathews-Roth MM, Pathak MA. New therapy for polymorphous light eruption. Arch Dermatol 1973;108:710-2.

3. Mathews-Roth MM, Pathak MA, Fitzpatrick TB, et al. Beta-carotene as a photoprotective agent in erythropoietic protoporphyria. N Engl J Med 1970;282:1231-4.

4. Mathews-Roth MM. Photoprotection by carotenoids. Fed Proc 1987;46:1890-3 [review].

5. Gajdos A. AMP in porphyria cutanea tarda. Lancet 1974;I:163 [letter].

6. Rhodes LE, Durham BH, Fraser WD, Friedmann PS. Dietary fish oil reduces basal and ultraviolet B-generated PGE2 levels in skin and increases the threshold to provocation of polymorphic light eruption. J Invest Dermatol 1995;105:532-5.

7. Neumann R, Rappold E, Pohl-Markl H. Treatment of polymorphous light eruption with nicotinamide: a pilot study. Br J Dermatol 1986;115:77-80.

8. Kaufman G. Pyridoxine against amiodarone-induced photosensitivity. Lancet 1984;i:51-2 [letter].

9. Ross JB, Moss MA. Relief of the photosensitivity of erythropoietic protoporphyria by pyridoxine. J Am Acad Dermatol 1990;22:340-2.

10. Cripps DJ. Diet and alcohol effects on the manifestation of hepatic porphyrias. Fed Proc 1987;46:1894-900.

11. Gordon HH. Photosensitivity to saccharin. J Am Acad Dermatol 1983;8:565 [letter].

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.

Drugs used to treat PHOTOSENSITIVITY. Select drug name to view medication information and pricing