Sjögren’s patients, and those suffering from autoimmune disease in general, need to be cautious about their time in the sun. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitted from the sun and other light sources (such as some fluorescent lights) can alter immune function and lead to an autoimmune response in the body and skin.
In response to the sun, Sjögren’s patients can experience skin rashes, ocular sensitivity, pain, and disease flares. Sun sensitivity with Sjögren’s is associated with the autoantibody SSA/or Ro. Below are a few tips to help protect yourself this summer and year-round.
- Protect your skin and eyes through use of sunscreen, UV-protective lenses/sunglasses, ultraviolet light-protective clothing, hats, and non-fluorescent lighting. Sun-protective clothing is designed to protect your skin from UVA & UVB rays and is more reliable than sunscreen.
- Consider purchasing UV-protective car and home window tinting and films (which come in clear.)
- Wear sunscreen on areas not covered by sun-protective clothing, such as the neck and ears.
- Read sunscreen labels and look for the words “broad spectrum,” which protects from both UVA & UVB light. Note that the SPF ratings refer only to UVB rays.
- Use plenty of sunscreen with a higher number SPF. Most people only use about 1/3 the recommended amount of sunscreen. This reduces the benefit of the SPF rating.
- Remember to reapply sunscreen because water, humidity and sweating decrease sunscreen effectiveness.
- Investigate whether UV-protective clothing and eyewear, window shields, and sunscreens are eligible for reimbursement under your insurance plan or Flexible Health Care Spending Account.