The ‘little known’ rash caused by sunlight that affects one in five – signs
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With the UK in the midst of its potentially hottest heatwave ever, Express.co.uk spoke exclusively to former GP and skin clinic founder John Quinn. John, who runs Quinn Clinics in Bristol, said: “The first thing to remember is your skin has multiple functions. Its primary function is as a protective barrier for the rest of our body but it also is involved in maintaining our body temperature as well so heat can affect the skin massively.”
One little known skin condition that is “common” in the summer is polymorphous light eruption (PMLE), John explained.
He said: “It is thought to be an auto-immune condition where, for people who are susceptible, they develop an itchy rash when they’re exposed to sunlight for the first time in a while.
“It’s actually quite common. One in five people can have it.
“It’s probably one of the most common conditions you’ve never heard of.
“It presents with an itchy rash on whatever the sun-exposed area is and it normally happens when you go out in the sun for the first time so we’re in the middle of a heatwave where people are thinking, ‘I’m going to go off to the beach and go crazy’.”
The itchy or burning rash caused by PMLE can appear within 20 minutes of sun exposure and will often clear up after a couple of weeks.
The best way to prevent it is by wearing plenty of sun cream that carries a high UVA rating, meaning it protects well against ultraviolet rays.
John said: “PMLE will normally go away itself but steroid cream can help.
“Ultimately wearing sun protection is the most important thing.
“Not only for PMLE, but for protecting you against a whole number of skin problems.
“Really you need to keep reapplying sun cream every two hours as well as whenever you get out of water.
“There is no such thing as a safe tan – it is all skin damage.”
Quinn Clinics offers laser treatments, including LaseMD, to people suffering with skin problems as well as damage caused by tanning – often through sun beds.
“We get a lot of people saying if they knew then what they knew now about sunbeds being bad,” he added.
“But we know the risks now and people are still tanning.”
According to the NHS, the rash caused by PMLE can take on many forms.
- You may get crops of 2mm to 5mm raised, pink or red spots, but redness may be harder to see on brown and black skin
- Some people get blisters that turn into larger, dry patches – it looks a bit like eczema
- Less commonly, the patches look like a target or “bulls-eye” (it looks a bit like erythema multiforme).
The health service adds: “PMLE can be easily mistaken for heat rash (prickly heat).
“Prickly heat is caused by warm weather or overheating, rather than sunlight or UV light.”
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