[Photosensitivity in lupus erythematosus]

Rev Med Interne. 2009 Oct;30(10):857-65. doi: 10.1016/j.revmed.2009.01.021. Epub 2009 Mar 21.
[Article in French]


Photosensitivity is one of the ARA diagnostic criteria of systemic lupus erythematosus. Sun exposure can also induce extracutaneous manifestations of the disease. Photosensitivity may be difficult to prove by history taking in lupus patients, as the delay between sun exposure and the onset of specific skin lesions is rather long. Photo-induction of lupus can occur by ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation in the shadow or behind window glass, so that the relationship between radiation exposure and exacerbation of the disease may not seem obvious to the patient. Phototesting procedures for lupus erythematosus have been described, but they are not used in routine practice. Both UVB and UVA play a role in the pathogenesis of lupus erythematosus: in the epidermis they induce DNA damage, they expose nuclear antigens and photo-induced neo-antigens at the cell surface, they lead to an accumulation of apoptotic material, and they induce several pro-inflammatory cytokines. In the dermis, UV radiation triggers skin infiltration by inflammatory cells by modulation of microvascular flow rates and by upregulation of white blood cell migration from dermal capillaries to the skin. Photodistribution of skin lesions and a delay of their onset of more than 48 hours after sun exposure are clinical hallmarks of cutaneous lupus erythematosus that are usually completed by histological confirmation. Photoprotection is essential in the treatment of lupus patients: it comprises sun avoidance suitable for both UVB and UVA radiation, protective clothing, and topical broad-spectrum filters.

Publication types

  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / complications*
  • Photosensitivity Disorders / etiology*
  • Photosensitivity Disorders / prevention & control
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects