What is photocontact dermatitis?

Photocontact dermatitis is a reaction that develops where chemicals are applied to the skin. This can be either phototoxic or photoallergic. This can be due to sunscreens (such as oxybenzone), fragrances, creams, insecticides, disinfectants, and a variety of other chemicals.

Phytophotodermatitis is a type of photocontact dermatitis, where UV radiation can convert chemicals in plants to chemicals which may lead to a photosensitive reaction. The most common class of chemicals are furocoumarins. These chemicals have evolved in plants to ward off predators, and some furocoumarins can have effects on the way our bodies handle drugs and medicines too.

Common plants which can cause phytophotodermatitis include:

  • Parsnips, celery, parsley (plants from the Umbelliferae family)
  • Bergamot lime, citron, zabon (plants from the Rutaceae family)
  • Figs (plants from the Moraceae family)
  • Beans (plants from the Leguminosa family)

Treatment and management of photosensitive dermatoses brought about by drugs and chemicals is centred on avoiding the chemical causing the reactions. Sunscreen can be worn (provided that the sunscreen itself does not cause a reaction), otherwise clothing be good protection against the sun. For photoallergic reactions, corticosteroids can be given if it is very severe.

Photosensitivity Guide Index:

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