Solar urticaria is a skin condition in which hives develop when the skin is exposed to sunlight, although in some cases artificial light may bring on symptoms as well. With solar urticaria, when the skin is exposed to sunlight, the patient may experience symptoms such as redness, itching, and the development of hives. This condition may sometimes be confused with sunburn, although those with this type of urticaria typically exhibit symptoms within minutes of sun exposure. The cause of this skin condition is not clearly understood, although the body seems to produce excess chemicals when exposed to sunlight, resulting in the abnormal skin reaction. Treatment typically involves the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications such as antihistamines or topical creams.
When a person who has solar urticaria is exposed to sunlight or artificial light in some cases, symptoms often develop within minutes or sometimes up to an hour later. The chemicals released by the body cause the blood vessels to open up, leading to a fluid buildup underneath the skin. This can cause reddened patches of itchy skin. These patches of red skin can become swollen, a condition known as hives. Solar urticaria can develop in anyone regardless of age or gender.
While the urticaria can usually be prevented or treated relatively easily, potential complications can occur. For instance, if a large area of skin has been affected, a significant amount of fluid may be lost underneath the skin. This may lead to symptoms such as pale skin, nausea, and dizziness.
Outbreaks of solar urticaria may be able to be prevented by taking specific precautions. Direct sunlight should be avoided whenever possible, especially when the sun is highest in the sky. When this is not possible, protective clothing should be worn to cover as much of the skin as possible, including wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Sunscreen should be applied several times per day when it is necessary to be out in the sunlight.
Treatment for outbreaks of solar urticaria usually involve the use of an over-the-counter or prescription antihistamine. Steroid creams or ointments may be applied directly to the affected areas of skin. A specialized treatment known as phototherapy may be performed by a medical professional in an effort to toughen the skin and make it less sensitive in some cases. A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions and can help the patient develop an individualized treatment plan.