Objective: To describe and identify the photoallergens causing photoallergic contact dermatitis in the population attending the outpatient clinic of the Centro Dermatologico Federico Lleras Acosta (CDFLLA), the National Institute of Dermatology of Colombia.
Materials and methods: Eighty-two patients with clinical diagnosis of photoallergic contact dermatitis enter the study. These patients attended the CDFLLA between August 2001 and May 2003. Photopatch tests were performed using the standard series of sunscreens (Chemotechnique Diagnostics) and 6-methylcoumarin. Cetyl alcohol, phenoxyethanol, methylparabene, propylene glycol, triethanolamine, propylparabene, trichlorocarbanilide and dichromate were also included. The allergens were applied in duplicate on the healthy skin of the back and covered with opaque tape withdrawn 24 h later, the panel on the right was irradiated with an ultraviolet A dose of 5 J/cm(2). The tests were read 24 h after the application of the allergens, 24 and 72 h post-irradiation. The readings were assessed according to the visual scoring system recommended by the International Contact Dermatitis Research Group.
Results: Twenty-six patients (31.7%) showed positive photopatch test responses to one or several allergens. Four of them showed positive results to three components of the series and four patients to two components. Thirty-eight photoallergic and 18 allergic reactions were observed. Ultraviolet filters were the substances which more frequently produced positive photopatch test responses (30.5%). The most common ultraviolet filter photoallergen was benzophenone-3 with 22/82 positive results (26.8%), followed by octyl methoxycinnamate (8/82), benzophenone-4 and mexenone (2/82), phenylbenzimidazole sulphonic acid, methylbenziliden camphor and octyl dimethyl PABA (1/82). One patient showed a photoallergic response to 6-methylcoumarin. There was a concordance between the allergen which elicited the positive response and the use of different substances which contained that molecule among its compounds in 17 patients (65.3%). 19.5% of the patients (16/82) showed positive results to one or several allergens in the irradiated panel as well as in the unirradiated control site. These cases were diagnosed as contact allergy, probably caused by aeroallergens, presenting a natural history and a clinical picture similar to photocontact allergy. The most common allergen was dichromate with 10 positive results.
Conclusions: The results of this study confirm that sunscreens are the more frequently involved substances in photoallergic contact dermatitis in our population. Identification of the photoallergen is the key element for adequate disease control and patient education.