Sunlight and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus



Sunlight and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Sunlight contributes to the synthesis of vitamin D and calcium in the body, improves mood, boosts self-esteem, and helps relieve a number of conditions. However, sun exposure needs to be approached with caution by people who suffer from certain diseases which can be badly affected by sun exposure and sunbathing, which can worsen the disease and aggravate its symptoms. One such disease is systemic lupus erythematosus.

What Is Lupus?

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin, the joints, and the internal organs. Autoimmune means that the body produces antibodies that attack its own cells and systematic refers to the fact that it can affect a number of organs and systems. With lupus, we see antibodies attack the body’s connective tissue. Since the connective tissue is present in the entire body, not just the skin, lupus can attack all organs, tissues, and systems, with the symptoms varying from mild to severe to life-threatening.

The disease afflicts mostly women of childbearing ages – 90% of patients are such individuals. The disease is rare among men and exceptionally rare among children younger than five years of age.

What Are the Symptoms of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus?

Lupus is a chronic disease with no known cure, but with proper treatment and preventative measures, it’s possible to achieve remissions and good quality of life. The disease is identified, diagnosed, and treated by a rheumatologist. Seek professional consultation if you think you might be suffering from it.

Common SLE symptoms include:

  • Butterfly-shaped rash on the cheeks and nose, which is very typical of the disease;
  • Redness in the palms and fingertips;
  • Photosensitivity;
  • Arthritis;
  • Hematologic abnormalities;
  • Hair loss or alopecia;
  • Damage to mucous membranes and vision.

SLE might not manifest on the skin, affecting internal organs instead. Nephritis, myocarditis, pericarditis, pleurisy, and other diseases can be observed, depending on which organs are affected – kidneys, heart, or joints. Neurological abnormalities are also possible.

The severe symptoms when internal organs are affected and the lack of treatment necessitate extra care from patients, avoiding risks, and timely monitoring by a specialist so as to prevent permanent damage to the tissue and organs. One of the things that people suffering from systemic lupus erythematosus need to avoid is sun exposure.

How Does Sunlight Affect SLE Patients?

Patients need to avoid sun exposure at all costs and use sunscreen with very high SPF. Sunlight can be both a triggering and a complicating factor in systemic lupus erythematosus, so patients have to cover their bodies with loose, light clothes with long sleeves and legs and wear wide-brimmed hats when they’re about to go out, walk or stay in the sun during spring and summer in order to avoid photosensitivity symptoms. Erythema appears, accompanied by pain and itching, which lead to scratching and skin injury. The typical butterfly rash on the face also deteriorates after sun exposure. As the disease worsens, mild photosensitivity can become chronic and result in permanent skin changes, deformities, and fibrosis. Due to all this, protecting the skin of the face and body from sun rays is of utter importance.

Photosensitivity itself is a sign of rheumatic disease and requires a consultation and diagnosis confirmation so that measures and symptomatic treatment can begin before complications appear.

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