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Polymorphic Light Eruptions (PMLE) - Causes and Treatment

Written by
Dr. Suvash Sahu
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Mar 16, 2017 and last reviewed on Sep 07, 2019   -  1 min read


Polymorphous light eruptions (PMLE) are skin rashes seen in people who are sensitive to sunlight and artificial UV light. To know more, read the article.

Polymorphic Light Eruptions (PMLE) - Causes and Treatment

PMLE is idiopathic, sunlight, or artificial light-induced cutaneous eruptions, ranging from papulovesicular lesions to large plaques, mainly localized to the photo-exposed areas of our body. It occurs, particularly at temperate latitudes. Cutaneous eruptions occur intermittent and follow specific sun exposure or artificial ultraviolet radiation, that usually extends from minutes to hours or rarely days. The eruptions may last for days to a week after the exposure ceases.

It affects individuals of all races. PMLE affects women twice frequently than men of all ages, the prevalence in the general population is inversely related to the latitude, it is most common in temperate regions. It is due to the hardening phenomenon, experienced by patient residing in hot climates. The risk of developing PMLE is highest with Fitzpatrick's skin type 1 (fair skin), and lowest prevalence is seen in people with skin type 4 and above (darker complexion).

Clinical Features

In PMLE, pruritus almost always occurs within minutes, and then chronic recurrent eruptions are seen on the photo-exposed sites, though some light-exposed parts may be spared. Lesions more commonly occur in early summer, and gradually improve as the season progresses, due to the hardening effects. Sun exposure for few minutes to several hours is required to initiate the development of lesions, but the lesions become visible only several hours after sun exposure.

Typically, affected sites include the bridge of the nose, malar areas of the cheeks, the tip of the chin, side and back of the neck, upper chest, dorsum of hands, dorsolateral aspects of the arms, front and back of the legs and dorsum of the feet. Lesional distribution and morphology vary with patients.



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Frequently Asked Questions


Can Polymorphic Light Eruption Be an Autoimmune Disease?

The polymorphous light eruption is a long-standing, slowly ameliorating disease that can develop autoimmune disease or thyroid disorder, especially in female patients.


How Prevalent Is Polymorphous Light Eruption?

The prevalence of polymorphic light eruption (PLE) varies between 10-20% in different countries, but no such data is available from places where exposure to sunlight is high.


What Is a Polymorphic Light Eruption?

A polymorphic light eruption (PMLE) occurs in response to sunlight when the skin has been covered and scarcely exposed to the sun. It is caused by ultraviolet A (UVA) light or visible light. It may occur after sun exposure through a window, and rarely it can occur with exposure to fluorescent lighting.


How To Stop Getting PMLE?

To stop getting PMLE, follow these steps:
- Use mild steroid cream like Hydrocortisone to reduce the redness.
- Antihistamine tablets can help to relieve itching.
- In case of severe rash, take a short course of corticosteroid tablets such as Prednisolone by the doctor's advice to help to reduce the inflammation.
- Stay indoors when the sun is bright.
- Wear tightly woven, long-sleeved clothes.
- Apply an effective sunscreen.
- Desensitisation can dampen the skin's response to sunlight by brief, controlled exposure to light before the summer begins.
- Apply SPF 50+ semi-opaque sunscreen regularly to all uncovered skin.
- Stay in the shade.


Is PMLE A Serious Skin Condition?

Polymorphous light eruption (PLE), is sometimes called polymorphic light eruption (PMLE), and is not a life-threatening condition. It is a potentially distressing skin condition triggered by sunlight and artificial UV exposure in a genetically susceptible person in temperate climates during the spring and early summer.


Can Polymorphic Light Eruption Go Away Forever?

Treatment of polymorphous light eruption usually is not necessary because the rash typically goes away on its own within 10 days without any scarring. The polymorphous light eruption usually occurs during spring and early summer when a person's exposure to sunlight increases. It will not go away forever, but repeated episodes are less likely to emerge as the summer progresses. And the rash will recur each year after the first incident.


Can PMLE Be a Sign of Lupus?

PMLE usually causes a burning sensation or itching. A few individuals also report fever and malaise following sun exposure. PMLE can also be the first sign of lupus erythematosus, but this is not usually the case.


Can Polymorphous Light Eruption Spread?

The polymorphous light eruption is not a contagious condition that cannot spread to others.


How Can You Harden the Skin for PMLE?

Few people with PMLE manage to harden their skin to sun exposure gradually by slowly increasing time spent outdoors with uncovered skin, starting with a few minutes of exposure during spring. Phototherapy: UVB narrowband, or PUVA 2–3 times per week for 4–6 weeks in early spring. Some patients also benefit from phototherapy as a way to harden the skin. This repeated, controlled exposure to natural or artificial UV light can help to desensitize skin and prevent future rashes.


How Long a PMLE Rash Last?

In a few cases, PMLE causes symptoms in most people after several hours of exposure to UV light, either from the sun or any artificial source such as a tanning bed. The symptoms of PMLE usually last for two to three days. However, repeated UV light exposure can cause the rash to last longer.

Last reviewed at:
07 Sep 2019  -  1 min read




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