Drug-Induced Photosensitivity Treatment & Management

Updated: Sep 18, 2020
  • Author: Alexandra Y Zhang, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Medical Care

The mainstays of treatment of drug-induced photosensitivity include identification and avoidance of the causative agent, the use of sun protection, and the institution of measures for symptomatic relief.

Topical corticosteroids and cool compresses may alleviate drug-induced photosensitivity. The use of systemic corticosteroids should be reserved for the most severe cases.

If sunscreens are not the cause of the photosensitivity, they should be used liberally. The sun protection factor (SPF) may not be a reliable indicator of protection against drug-induced photosensitivity. The SPF refers to the degree of protection against sunlight-induced sunburn, primarily that caused by UV-B. Most drug-induced photosensitivity reactions are caused by wavelengths within the UV-A range. Therefore, sunscreens that absorb UV-A should be prescribed. Sunscreens that contain avobenzone (Parsol 1789), titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide are more effective in blocking out UV-A radiation than sunscreens that contain other ingredients. Polypodium leucotomos shows promise. [37]



Patients who experience drug-induced photosensitivity should identify and avoid the causative agent. Patients should use a sunscreen if it is not the offending agent. Sun protection often prevents photosensitivity reactions.