4 Things You Need To Know About Solar Urticaria

Urticaria, also called hives, can be caused by many different things, ranging from medications to stress to the cold. Surprisingly, even the sun can cause hives! Solar urticaria refers to this condition. Here are four things you need to know about solar urticaria.

What are the symptoms of solar urticaria?

If you have solar urticaria, you'll develop hives on your skin in response to ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is present in sunlight, so going outside may result in hives, but tanning beds and tanning lamps also contain UV radiation and can cause a reaction.

These hives are red and itchy and can form both on exposed skin and on skin that is covered by thin clothing. At first, you may mistake this reaction for a sunburn. However, unlike a sunburn, once you get out of the sun, you'll notice that your rash goes away quickly, sometimes within as little as several minutes.

Hives aren't the only symptom that people with solar urticaria experience. Some people also get a headache or feel nauseous after sun exposure.The condition can also make your tongue and lips swell up, which can lead to difficulty breathing. Anaphylaxis isn't common, but this life-threatening allergic reaction can occur if you are exposed to too much sunlight. If you experience some or all of these symptoms after sun exposure, make sure to talk to a dermatologist right away.

What causes it?

The cause of this condition is unknown. Researchers know that the condition is an allergic reaction to sunlight, but why this happens to some people and not others is still a mystery. More research needs to be done to identify the cause of this distressing condition.

Can it be treated?

Like other types of urticarias, solar urticaria can be managed with antihistamines. Antihistamines, also called allergy medicine, can temporarily control your symptoms, but they won't cure your condition. If you stop taking the medicine, you'll start getting hives again.

Steroid creams such as hydrocortisone can also be helpful. Steroids work by reducing inflammation and can help to reduce your itching. Hydrocortisone creams are available over-the-counter, but prescription creams are also available from your dermatologist. Like antihistamines, hydrocortisone creams are a way to manage your symptoms, but they're not a cure. When you stop using the creams, your symptoms will return.

If antihistamines don't work for you, your dermatologist may recommend PUVA therapy. PUVA therapy is a type of phototherapy that has been reported to help some patients. During this treatment, your dermatologist will expose you to ultraviolet light in a controlled environment. You'll be given a small dose at first, about one minute to start, and over time, you'll work up to longer sessions of up to half an hour. The goal of this treatment is to build up your tolerance to sunlight. Don't try this treatment at home, as you may expose yourself to too much sunlight and get a sunburn or even skin cancer later in life.

Is solar urticaria common?

Solar urticaria is a rare condition. Only 4 percent of Americans with photosensitive disorders have solar urticaria. The global rate is slightly higher: 5.3 percent of cases are solar urticaria. It tends to be slightly more common among women than among men. While it can occur in people of any age, the mean age of onset solar urticaria is 35 years.

If you get hives when you are exposed to sunlight, you should see your dermatologist as you may have solar urticaria. This condition is can have a serious effect on your quality of life, but with the help of your dermatologist, you will be able to manage your condition.

Click this link to learn about what other conditions a dermatologist can help treat.