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Lupus and the pain of UV rays

Yesterday I went to the Apple store to get my phone repaired. It was raining, overcast and I was literally going from the car to the Mall so I didn’t put my sunscreen on. BIG MISTAKE! The UV lights in the Apple store were brutal. I was there for over an hour and by the time I left my malar rash was in full flare and I felt extremely unwell.

Everyone knows about the damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, and we know to protect ourselves outside with wide-brimmed hats, garments made from sun-protective- fabric, and, of course, sunscreen. But for those of us with Lupus, driving in cars, walking through a supermarket or sitting in an office, the UV exposure from artificial light can be just as damaging and painful as too much time outside in the sun.

Why are people with Lupus super sensitive to light? - Exposure to UV light will cause damage to everyone’s cellular DNA, regardless if it comes from the sun or a lamp, explains Sabrina Newman, MD, assistant professor of dermatology and internal medicine at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

It’s what happens next that differs between the average person and someone with Lupus. “In people with lupus, the cells are much more sensitive to the damage caused by UV radiation,” Newman says. “Once the cells are damaged, the immune system clears them, but people with lupus have a much slower clearance of these cells.” The dead cells then stick around in the body, triggering an immune system attack. *

Lupus Medications can increase photosensitivity such Methotrexate and Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) can also make some people more UV-sensitive. Yet stopping these medications can be tricky if they are helping your lupus. You and your doctor would need to weigh up the side effects and risks before deciding together what is right for you.

So how can you protect yourself and help prevent lupus flare ups?

If UV light flares your lupus, then you can do the following

  • Wear tightly woven clothing that covers your skin, a wide-brimmed hat, and wraparound sunglasses to protect you from head to toe.

  • Choose light bulbs that have the lowest possible irradiance (intensity).

  • Cover fluorescent and halogen bulbs with light shields or glass that filters out UV rays. Look for shields with readings of 380 to 400 nanometers, which filters all types of ultraviolet light.

  • Use UV-blocking shades to cover windows and prevent sunlight from streaming in.

  • Consider tinting the windows of your car—check state laws on window tinting to see if a doctor’s note is required.

  • Apply a liberal layer of a 30 SPF or higher sunscreen, one that provides broad-spectrum- protection against both UVA and UVB rays, EVERY 4 HOURS despite not being in the sun.

(ref: https://resources.lupus.org/entry/uv-exposure-what-you-need-to-know)

Luckily my malar rash subsided overnight and after a good night’s sleep I am feeling a lot better, however next time I will remember to put my sunscreen on no matter if it’s raining or whether I am inside or outside.

PS. I could have put a professional shot with me looking gorgeous in here but I decided to put this one in instead – keeping it real, and all that.