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Jan 04, 2021

Is Polymorphic Light Eruption Serious?

Polymorphic Light Eruption, otherwise known as PMLE, is actually much more widespread than people might realise given its serious-sounding name. It’s the most common photosensitivity, affecting 10-15% of the UK population, and varies in severity from person to person.

Luckily, most cases of sun sensitivity are relatively mild: a bumpy rash on the upper arms on the first hot day of summer, or pimply spots on the V of your upper chest, an area normally covered up by woolies the rest of the year. These outbreaks can take a few days to fade away, and may recur on the next bright day of the year, but they aren’t in themselves debilitating.

But it’s not just the severity of reaction that can vary, but the length of time skin is affected. Most people find that as summer progresses and their skin gets used to the UV light, it ‘desensitises’, and the outbreaks become less frequent and less severe.

In more severe cases, the rashes can persist for days or weeks, and feel more than just mildly uncomfortable; in these cases, the skin can become intensely itchy, painful and can even blister. Sometimes the affected skin looks like sore, dry eczema, sometimes more like prickly heat. (The wide variety of reactions is how the condition got its name of ‘polymorphic’, meaning many forms.)

In the very worst outbreaks, sufferers can be affected by PMLE all year round, especially if they live in regions where the sunshine is bright 365 days a year. This variant of the condition is rare; most sufferers live somewhere like the UK, where winters have little strong sunlight, and their arms are covered until spring. But even UK sufferers can find PMLE is a blight on their summers, and have to find ways to avoid the sun and manage their flares.

However, the good news is that for the majority of people, however uncomfortable it might be, PMLE is not a serious or debilitating condition. It isn’t contagious, it doesn’t tend to affect the face, or other systems of the body, and heals without leaving a scar. Most cases don’t need treatment, and will simply resolve in time.

In fact, many people who have developed PMLE during their 20s or 30s become less sensitive as they age, until they find one summer that they simply don’t react any more!

Read our blog How Is Polymorphic Light Eruption Treated? For more detailed information about ways to look after skin prone to PMLE.

Our products do not contain sunscreens! Do not apply oils or oil-based balms like Skin Salvation to exposed areas of skin in bright sunlight, as the oils can make the skin more likely to burn.

Recommended products:

Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream
with shea butter and calendula

Balmonds Cooling Cream
with shea, menthol, aloe vera & lavender

Important Note

If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.

If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.

Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.

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