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Polymorphic light eruption treatment (PLE)

PLE is a rash that comes up after exposure to light.  A PLE rash can take many different forms, including small red bumps, larger red areas, and blisters. PLE is very common, affecting about 18% of the population in Europe. 1 in 3 fair-skinned women report PLE.

PLE is a reaction to sunlight. As little as 15 minutes of strong sun can trigger the condition. PLE can come occur when the light has passed through window glass, and occasionally after exposure to fluorescent lighting.

The majority of PLE sufferers experience the condition in the spring after they go out in the sun. Often it occurs on a holiday abroad, and may often clear up before they return home. The rash tends to affect areas that have been covered by clothing during the winter. It will often disappear without treatment in about a week if there is no further sun exposure. If you stay in the sun, the rash will get worse and spread; but as the summer wears on, the skin becomes resistant to sunlight and more of it is needed to provoke the rash. PLE – points of interest:

  • Women get PLE more often than men.
  • It usually starts under the age of 30.
  • It affects people with all types of skin but is most common in those who are fair.
  • It is most common in countries where the climate is temperate, and exposure to the sun is usually not heavy.
  • It is not infectious and has no connection with skin cancer.

How can PLE be treated? When the rash comes up, a corticosteroid cream or ointment will help to settle it, but prevention is better than cure. Mild PLE can be controlled by:

  • Avoiding sunlight between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Stay in the shade.
  • Using a wide spectrum sun block (one that blocks both UVA and UVB) with a high protective factor. Remember to put it on several times a day.
  • Wearing protective clothing – broad-brimmed hats, gloves, and long sleeves.

If very troublesome, desensitisation treatment can be considered. This is a way of raising your skin’s resistance by careful exposure to increasing doses of ultraviolet light in a special phototherapy cubicle at a specialist skin clinic. Where can I get more information about PLE?

  • Visit the British Association of Dermatologists website www.bad.org.uk
  • Contact the Clear Skin Dermatology Treatment Clinic on 029 2079 5775