Critical Wavelength®
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UVA and Photodermatosis/Photosensitivity

Prescription Drugs and Photosensitivity


Four hundred drugs are known to cause light sensitive and photo-allergic reactions.  Photosensitivity, particularly as a result of UVA exposure, can be caused by many commonly used drugs such as antibiotics, birth control pills, diuretics, antihistamines, antidepressants and many retinoids (such as Vitamin A).  It is important for patients taking medications to be aware of photosensitive side effects and look for sun protection products with a Critical Wavelength® value of 370nm or higher.



Independent of interaction with numerous drugs, there are multiple medical conditions in which  UVA rays are known to  have deleterious health effects. These photosensitivity disorders include a wide range of clinical entities, and can include some disorders that are relatively common and others that are exceedingly rare. Just a few examples:



Polymorphous Light Eruption (PMLE):  These patients have inflammatory skin lesions primarily on the arms and upper trunk. PMLE is a relatively common disorder, occurring in around 20% of otherwise healthy individuals. Exposure to both UVB and UVA rays can trigger PMLE, as can visible light. Given the broad action spectrum for this disorder, it is understandable that many of the sunscreens available in this country have not been very useful for PMLE patients. Since PMLE  can be triggered by wavelengths of light up to, and even beyond 400nm, this is a disorder in which physicians need to seek out and recommend the highest Critical Wavelength® products available.


Lupus Erythematosis: Evidence strongly suggests that oxidative damage plays an important role in this disease. One model suggests that the release of inflammatory cytokines may trigger the appearance of pathogenic cellular antigens on the surface of skin cells. Photosensitivity is a common manifestation of both systemic and cutaneous lupus.  Photoprotection measures, such as the use of high SPF, broad-spectrum sunscreens have proved useful for patients with lupus, and as with PMLE.  Physicians should select high Critical Wavelength® sunscreens for lupus patients.



Chemotherapy and Post Radiation Therapy: Patients require complete full spectrum protection to help minimize specific drug-induced lightsensitive reactions experienced secondary to chemotherapy and tissue damage as a result of radiation therapy. Photosensitivity is common in chemotherapy patients and can persist long after therapy.



Transplant Immunosuppressed Therapy: These patients require complete full spectrum protection from all the damaging rays of the sun since immunosuppression after an organ transplant often puts the patient at risk for the development of skin cancer. Transplant patients can develop many small skin cancers, resulting in an overall risk that one of these cancers can pose a problem if left untreated.



Post Laser Skin Resurfacing, Chemical Peels, and Microdermabrasion:  Following these procedures patients will have sensitive skin in which the overall healing process can be enhanced through proper sun protection.



Facial Cosmetic Surgery and Facial Trauma: These patients require complete daily full spectrum protection from the sun's damaging rays.



Rosacea: Rosacea is a chronic condition, aggravated by sunlight. This disease affects the skin of the face which usually starts with redness on the cheeks and can slowly worsen. Patients require full spectrum sun protection and are advised to use non-comedogenic facial products.



Solar Urticaria: This is an abnormal reaction to sunlight or artificial light. When exposed to light, the skin cells of someone with solar urticaria release potent chemicals (including histamine), which cause their blood vessels to open and fluid to collect within the skin. This edema makes the  skin feel itchy and swollen. These areas may look like a rash, and can take up to an hour to appear after exposure to light. They can come on and quickly and disappear within a similar period of time.

The above are but a few conditions in which knowledge, and selection of, a very high Critical Wavelength® sunscreen is very important.

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