By Marc Sorenson, EdD
Eczema is an inflammatory condition of the skin characterized by redness, itching, and oozing vesicular lesions which become scaly, crusted, or hardened.[i] Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of the many types of eczema, and UV radiation has been used successfully for decades in its treatment.[ii] An excellent paper by Dr. DJ Palmer mentioned the following regarding the use of UV light as a treatment:
- UV therapy was first used in the 1970s, when UVA radiation was used to treat atopic dermatitis and other skin conditions.[iii] The results were considered poor to fair, but created optimism going forward.
- In the 1980s, a combination of UVA and UVB therapy was used to treat atopic dermatitis, and in one investigation, it was shown that of 107 patients, 93% had good results, and the need for steroidal skin treatments (a typical treatment for the disease) decreased in half of the patients. A second experiment followed, in which 94% of the patients had good results and 85% of them had a decreased need for the steroid treatments.[iv]
- A 12-county European study reported in 2004, found the prevalence of eczema symptoms increased with latitude (indicative of less sunlight exposure).[v]
- In 2009, Italian research showed that seaside holidays led to complete resolution of atopic dermatitis in 91% of patients,[vi] which indicated positive effects of sunlight on the disease. The study also showed that the condition improved during summertime and deteriorated in the other seasons.
- A U.S. study of more than 91,000 children, reported in 2013 found significantly increased prevalence of eczema associated with several measures of lower solar UVB dose.
An investigation in children aged 0-17 years also established that sunlight exposure was associated with lessened prevalence of eczema.[vii] Children in the highest quartile (fourth) of exposure were about 20% less likely to experience eczema. Other research on young people directly assessed sunlight exposure in the first 16 years of life and compared it to the risk of atopic allergic diseases. It demonstrated that high sunlight exposure during summer holidays or weekends was significantly associated with reduced eczema.[viii] However, as the researchers stated, “Increased sun exposure during summer holidays in adolescence was associated with reduced eczema and rhinitis risk, independently of measured vitamin D levels. This is another of the studies that indicates sunlight produces salubrious effects beyond its ability to stimulate vitamin D production.
[i] Palmer DJ. Vitamin D and the Development of Atopic Eczema. J Clin Med. 2015 May 20;4(5):1036-50.
[ii] Palmer DJ. Vitamin D and the Development of Atopic Eczema. J Clin Med. 2015 May 20;4(5):1036-50.
[iii] Lynch WS, Martin JS, Roenigk HH Jr. Clinical results of photochemotherapy. The Cleveland Clinic experience. Cutis. 1977 Oct;20(4):477-80
[iv] Hannuksela M, Karvonen J, Husa M, Jokela R, Katajamäki L, Leppisaari M. Ultraviolet light therapy in atopic dermatitis. Acta Derm Venereol Suppl (Stockh). 1985;114:137-9.
[v] Weiland SK, Husing A, Strachan DP, Rzehak P, Pearce N. Climate and the prevalence of symptoms of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic eczema in children. Occup Environ Med 2004;61:609-15.
[vi] Patrizi A, Savoia F, Giacomini F, Tabanelli M, Gurioli C. The effect of summer holidays and sun exposure on atopic dermatitis. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2009 Aug;144(4):463-6
[vii] Silverberg JI, Hanifin J, Simpson EL. Climatic factors are associated with childhood eczema prevalence in the United States. J Invest Dermatol. 2013 Jul;133(7):1752-9
[viii] Kemp AS, Ponsonby AL, Pezic A, Cochrane JA, Dwyer T, Jones G. The influence of sun exposure in childhood and adolescence on atopic disease at adolescence. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2013 Aug;24(5):493-500.