UV Awareness Month: The Impact of Sun Exposure on Lupus Symptoms

July 11, 2023

As the summer sun shines brighter and temperatures rise, it’s crucial to remember the importance of UV awareness, particularly for individuals living with lupus. July is designated as UV Awareness Month, a time to shed light on the impact of sun exposure in lupus and share essential tips for staying sun smart. Today, we’ll explore the connection between lupus and sun exposure and provide practical guidelines to help you enjoy the summer months while minimizing sun-related flares. 

Understanding Lupus and Sun Exposure:

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects millions of people worldwide, primarily women. It is characterized by an overactive immune system that mistakenly attacks healthy tissues, leading to inflammation and damage in various organs and systems. Sun exposure can trigger or worsen symptoms in individuals with lupus due to its ability to stimulate the immune system and cause inflammation. This phenomenon is known as photosensitivity.

Photosensitivity in Lupus:

Photosensitivity is a common feature of lupus, and it manifests in different ways for each individual. Sunlight, particularly ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, can activate the immune system, resulting in a range of symptoms, including:

  • Skin Rashes
  • Joint Pain
  • Fatigue 
  • Internal Organ Inflammation 
  • Some individuals may also experience a lupus-specific skin condition called “Discoid Lupus,” characterized by circular, scaly rashes that worsen with sun exposure.

Tips for Sun Smart Living with Lupus:

  • Seek Shade: When outdoors, look for shaded areas, especially during the peak sun hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Shade provides significant protection against harmful UV rays.
  • Wear Protective Clothing: Cover up with lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and wide-brimmed hats to shield your skin from direct sunlight. Consider choosing clothing with built-in UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) for added protection.
  • Use Sunscreen: Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 or higher generously to all exposed areas of skin. Remember to reapply every two hours or more frequently if you are swimming or sweating. For sunscreens tips specifically for lupus patients, watch our Live Expert Session on Hair Loss and Sun Protection in Lupus from expert dermatologist, Dr. Rachel Abuav.
  • Wear Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays by wearing sunglasses with UV protection. Look for sunglasses labeled as blocking 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
  • Plan Outdoor Activities Wisely: Schedule your outdoor activities during the early morning or late afternoon when the sun’s rays are less intense. Consider indoor alternatives on extremely hot or sunny days.
  • Create a Sun-Safe Environment: If you spend a lot of time in your car, consider adding window tinting or using UV-protective window film to minimize sun exposure. Use blinds or curtains in your home to reduce the amount of direct sunlight indoors.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, as lupus medications and sun exposure can increase the risk of dehydration. Hydration helps maintain overall health and aids in regulating body temperature.
  • Educate Your Loved Ones: Raise awareness among your friends and family about the impact of sun exposure on lupus. Encourage them to join you in adopting sun-safe habits during outdoor activities.

UV Awareness Month serves as a reminder to take proactive steps to protect yourself from the harmful effects of sun exposure, particularly if you have lupus. By implementing these sun-smart tips and making a few lifestyle adjustments, you can enjoy the summer season while minimizing the risk of triggering or worsening lupus symptoms. Remember, staying safe in the sun is a vital part of managing lupus and promoting overall well-being. 

Lupus LA wishes you sun-smart and flare-free summer! 

More on Lupus and Sun Protection:

Hair Loss & Sun Protection In Lupus: Live Expert Q&A with dermatologist, Dr. Rachel Abuav

What Lupus Patients Need To Know About Sunscreen and Sunblock

Emergency Grant Recipient Testimonial: Enhancing Patient Lives 

Did you know that Lupus LA assists patients in need with medical expenses related to lupus? We know that the financial burden of lupus often places strain on our patient community in accessing the care and resources that they deserve. When insurance isn’t enough, Lupus LA seeks to support patients in need through our Emergency Grant Program.

“Having to travel more than 60 miles round trip to doctors appointments, I spend a lot of time in the car. Having the window tint is a big relief for me and I have no doubt it will help my condition. It is more than just peace of mind knowing I have an added layer of protection from the sun.” – Lupus LA Emergency Grant Recipient

For more information about how Lupus LA assists patients with medical expenses related to lupus and the symptoms that lupus can cause, visit our Emergency Grants page to learn more.