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Porphyria Educational Services


Photosensitivity and Drug Labeling
by Diana Deats-O'Reilly

Special labels are often attached to the medicine containers of those drugs that have photosensitive properties within them. My pharmacy uses a different color little stickers that goes on the side of the basic pharmaceutical information. These labels are put on drugs that may cause an unusual response to the sun and other sources of ultraviolet (UV) light.

This is called "photosensitivity,. There are several reactions that can occur in dealing with photosensitivity.. The most common reaction is an intense or exaggerated sunburn. However   rashes, blistering, swelling and other skin problems can also occur. Skin can become very fragile.

It is important to note here that not everyone who takes these drugs has a reaction. Many people have no problems, and others react only mildly. It is known that photosensitivity is hard to predict. ust because someone else hasn't had a reaction doesn't mean it won't happen with you.

It is also known that the same person can also respond in different ways at different times. Many factors enter into this. The amount of medication you take, other
drugs or  products you're using, and the intensity  of UV light -- determine whether reaction will occur. It also makes a difference if you have Rosacea or if you have PCT, VP or HCP. Here you must be warned-don't be fooled if  you haven't reacted while taking one of these drugs in the past .

Photosensitivity can still occur the next time around.

It must be also noted that in some cases, photosensitivity may also continue after a drug is stopped. With tetracycline for example, some people stay sensitive for several weeks. This includes the minocycline which is a common medication for Rosacea. With some patients it can sometimes up to several months) after they've finished the medication.

Because photosensitivity is so hard to predict, the best approach is to prevent   reactions by always protecting your skin. In VP and HCP along with the PCT, avoiding the sun and sun reflection such as snow glare or water glare from a lake, is important.  And just because you are separated from the sun by a pane of window glass does not mean you are protected.

Photosensitivity may happen quickly (sometimes in as little as 10 minutes), so even the time it takes to walk to the store, wash the car, or mow the lawn or shovel the snow out of the driveway on a bright winter's day, it can be enough to cause a reaction in some people.