Phototoxicity of Doxycycline: A Systematic Review on Clinical Manifestations, Frequency, Cofactors, and Prevention

Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2017;30(2):76-80. doi: 10.1159/000458761. Epub 2017 Mar 15.


Background: One of the most important dermatologic side effects of doxycycline is photosensitivity. As doxycycline is important for malaria prophylaxis and malaria is mainly spread in countries with high sun radiation, special attention should be paid to this adverse effect. While there are many publications on the phototoxicity of tetracyclines in general, only a few exist focusing on doxycycline. The objective of this systematic review was to summarize all available reports on clinical manifestations, influencing factors like UV dose or dose of medication, and the possibilities of prevention by sun protection.

Methods: This review is based on a systematic search in PubMed for articles in English and German and a manual search between 1990 and 2015.

Results: The number of publications is low. Clinical symptoms vary from light sunburn-like sensation (burning, erythema) to large-area photodermatitis. Also, onycholysis is possible. The triggering UV spectrum seems to consist mainly of UVA1 (340-400 nm), so UV-protective products should be used that cover this range. Travelers to tropical countries taking doxycycline for malaria prophylaxis need thorough medical counseling to avoid possibly severe phototoxic reactions.

Conclusion: Evidence base must be improved for giving advice on appropriate prevention measures to travelers taking doxycycline and having a risk of significant sun exposure.

Keywords: Doxycycline; Photosensitivity; Phototoxicity; Tetracycline.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Doxycycline / administration & dosage
  • Doxycycline / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Malaria / epidemiology
  • Malaria / prevention & control
  • Onycholysis / chemically induced
  • Onycholysis / pathology
  • Photosensitivity Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Photosensitivity Disorders / pathology
  • Sunlight / adverse effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Doxycycline