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Home > Healthy Living > Health Library > Photosensitivity (Holistic)
Increase your tolerance to sunlight by supplementing with beta-carotene
Steer clear of excessive sun exposure by wearing protective clothing or smoothing on sunscreen
Visit a qualified healthcare provider to find out if your photosensitivity is caused by a treatable medical condition or a side effect of medication
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.
People with photosensitivity need to protect themselves from the sun by using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing (such as long-sleeved shirts), and avoiding excess exposure to the sun.
One of the conditions that may trigger photosensitivity—porphyria cutanea tarda—has been linked to alcohol consumption. People with this form of porphyria should avoid alcohol. Some people have been reported to develop a photosensitivity reaction to the artificial sweetener, saccharin.
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For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
Caution: Synthetic beta-carotene has been linked to increased risk of lung cancer in smokers. Until more is known, smokers should avoid all beta-carotene supplements.
Years ago, researchers theorized that beta-carotene in skin might help protect against sensitivity to ultraviolet light from the sun. Large amounts of beta-carotene (up to 300,000 IU per day for at least several months) have allowed people with photosensitivity to stay out in the sun several times longer than they otherwise could tolerate. The protective effect appears to result from beta-carotene's ability to protect against free-radical damage caused by sunlight.
Adenosine monophosphate (AMP) is a substance made in the body that is also distributed as a supplement, although it is not widely available. According to one report, 90% of people with porphyria cutanea tarda responded well to 160 to 200 mg of AMP per day taken for at least one month. Complete alleviation of photosensitivity occurred in about half of the people who took AMP.
In a small preliminary trial, supplementation with fish oil (10 grams per day for three months) reduced photosensitivity in 90% of people suffering from polymorphous light eruptions.
Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3, can reduce the formation of a kynurenic acid—a substance that has been linked to photosensitivity. One trial studied the effects of niacinamide in people who had polymorphous light eruption. While taking one gram three times per day, most people remained free of problems, despite exposure to the sun. Because of the potential for adverse effects, people taking this much niacinamide should do so only under medical supervision.
Cases have been reported of people with photosensitivity who responded to vitamin B6 supplementation. Amounts of vitamin B6 used to successfully reduce reactions to sunlight have varied considerably. Some doctors suggest a trial of 100 to 200 mg per day for three months. People wishing to take more than 200 mg of vitamin B6 per day should do so only under medical supervision.
Last Review: 06-05-2015
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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 2018.
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