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Mar 31, 2014

Be ready to face the sun this Summer:Dr. Chiranjiv Chhabra

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dr. chiranjiv chhabra
With spring fading and summer kissing your feet, come new skin problems, namely- 'sun damage'. Over exposure to the sun can bring chronic damage, human skin is very sensitive to the sun and if not protected, brown spots, wrinkles, and dehydration will damage the skin, which in turn may lead to skin cancer.

People often come rushing to my clinic with red rashes on their face, neck and arms. They complain of irresistible irritation and itching on these spots. Sometimes, it is not only one particular spot or place where the rashes appear, they can affect entire body at times.

Though there are many reasons for these rashes, from being of any type of allergy to hormonal imbalances, but majority of the cases turn out to be as a result of skin allergy due to excessive exposure of the sun.

If you compare the skin tone and complexion of a skin that is exposed to sunlight daily and the skin that is less exposed, you will see the difference with your own eyes. The difference will be striking. The skin that has been minimally exposed will look decades younger.

The damage from UV light is cumulative and can take years before it is apparent and prominently visible. It is generally by the time we reach our mid-thirties the long-term effects of UV exposure starts becoming prominent with clearly visible in the form of the fine lines, wrinkles, changed skin tone and color. It is a fact that people are sensitive to sunlight; and this phenomenon is known as ‘photosensitivity’. This sensitivity of the skin ends in producing rashes, better known as photodermatosis in the medical fraternity. Skin allergy from sun is actually a reaction from the immune system of the body trying to protect its cells from the harmful UV rays of the sunlight eventuating in red and itchy rashes.

Handling numerous cases of rashes and allergies from the sun frequently, I have made an observation that, the most common locations include the "V" of the neck, the back of the hands, the outside surface of the arms and the lower legs. If you carefully observe the pattern of the places these rashes appear, they are mainly the areas which get exposed to sunlight even when one is clothed up. I have seen my fair share of rare cases too where the rashes appear even spread to skin in clothed areas in the form hives or small blisters. The rashes could be itchy or burning and may last for a few days.

Sunscreen is an absolute must during the warmer months, so looking for a sunscreen with a SPF of at least 20 is recommendable. A moisturizer with SPF is also a good alternative for those who are looking for versatile products.

People often confuse between sunburns and allergies from sun. There is a fine line between these two skin reactions.

Sunburns appear on sun-exposed part of your skin when technically your body’s protective skin pigment ‘Melanin’ which is supposed to fight away harmful radiations and germs, falls weak and fails to protect your skin well enough from the ultraviolet light.

On the other hand, in cases of allergic reaction from exposure to the sun, your body's immune system reacts against the harmful rays and fights hard to protect your skin and this is what causes the breakout on your skin.

It is also called as hypersensitivity to the sun, or Polymorphous Light Eruption (PMLE). Skin allergy from sun can occur within minutes of exposure to the sun, and also goes away much quicker after sun exposure has stopped compared to time taken to revive back from sunburn. Sunburn can cause more grave problems than just mere temporary pain and redness. Over time, frequent sunburn can contribute to premature aging of the skin, and even lead to deadly skin cancer.

Other than the basic skin problem of sunburn and allergy caused by the sun, throughout my career till date, I have come across many other cases of severe skin problems and diseases, the root cause being the harmful rays of sun. I will share some of the possible cases.

· Thickening of skin, mainly on the back of the neck resulting in coarse wrinkles, a condition better known as ‘elastosis’.

· Thinning of skin causing fine wrinkles.

· UV rays from the sun might cause the walls of the blood cells to go thinner leading to bruising with only a short-period of exposure to the sun.

· Appearance of freckles and white spots on hands and legs respectively.

· Can cause 3 major types of skin cancer, viz. melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma of which Melanoma is the most deadly skin cancer type because it is said to metastasize more readily and faster than the other skin cancers.

Given the bitterest and the scariest of facts about the chances to acquire diseases from the harmful rays of sun, it is inevitable to avoid exposure to sunlight.

No one can stop going outdoor because of the fear of getting sun-burnt or allergy, but from my point of view and advice which implies to myself too is that, if we cannot avoid the sun, the least we can do is to do the best in our stride to minimize its harmful effects by taking a few personal precautions and following a sun care regime.

UV damage does not only keep restricted at the skin's surface, its effects are felt even well beneath it. Most importantly, exposure to UV radiation can severely weaken the immune system and its ability to ward off viruses and bacteria. All these threats indicate that we should never drop any chances of taking care of our well being.

A few quick tips:

· Always wear a sun protector half an hour before stepping out into the sun.

· Don’t miss out applying the sun protector onto your ears & neck.

· If one has sensitive skin then its best to use a sun protector which is oil free & light in weight.

· Drink a lot of water

· Wear clothes that cover your body, and

· Lastly when you must be exposed to intense sunlight, wear protective clothing such as long pants, long sleeved shirts, broad-brimmed hats and UV-protective sunglasses.

So, next time you step outdoors, make sure that you are keeping yourself safe from the heat exposure by applying sun blocks and drink plenty of fluids especially lots of water to keep you body cells from dehydrating.


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