With the arrival of summer sunshine, people gravitate outdoors to soak up the vitamin D. But sun exposure can cause several undesirable effects, like wrinkles, cataracts, skin cancer, and sunburns. While it’s always important to take precautions against these consequences, it’s also crucial to be aware of what can increase your photosensitivity, including the medications you take.
How Do Medications Affect Photosensitivity?
“Some medications restrict blood vessels, weaken cell membranes, or damage DNA, all of which can increase a person’s sensitivity to the sun,” explains Nanette Dacumos, MD, family medicine physician at St. Joseph and Texas A&M Health Network on West Villa Maria. If you’re currently on one or more medications, take some time to learn how your prescriptions might affect you. The following drugs are especially well-known for increasing photosensitivity:
Antibiotics, particularly tetracyclines
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Oral contraceptives and estrogens
Cholesterol-lowering drugs and diuretics
How Do I Protect Myself From the Sun?
According to the FDA, the two types of photosensitivity are photoallergy and phototoxicity. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation—both natural and artificial—can lead to photoallergy, which refers to an allergic reaction that may not occur until a few days after exposure. Phototoxicity refers to an immediate irritation to the skin hours after exposure. Apply sunscreen daily with a minimum SPF of 30 to protect your skin. Other methods of protection include:
Wearing protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses, to limit sun exposure.
Seeking shade during the sun’s strongest hours, which tend to be anywhere between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and can last as late as 4 p.m.
While it’s exciting to take a trip to the beach or spend the day lounging outdoors, don’t forget to protect your skin from sun damage. Your St. Joseph Health primary care physician can advise you on the effects of your medications and steps you can take to keep you and your family healthy all summer long. As part of the St. Joseph and Texas A&M Health Network, our team of doctors prioritizes your preventive health and will work with you to achieve your goals.