Phytophotodermatitis

What is Phytophotodermatitis?

Phytophotodermatitis is a skin condition caused when you come in contact with chemicals in certain plants and plant products. This condition is characterized by red, itchy and irregular shaped blisters on the skin1.

Phytophotodermatitis 1

This condition affects all individuals irrespective of age and gender. It is more likely to occur in people exposed to sunlight and plants and plant product.

Causes

Exposure to furocoumarins

Furocoumarin is a chemical found on most plants surfaces. Ultraviolet radiations can stimulate this chemical and when your skin comes in contact with it, a reaction can occur. This reaction may lead to red, itchy blisters forming on the epidermis; this is the outer layer of the skin. Furocoumarins can also trigger production of excess melanin which leads to discoloration of your skin.

Several plants contain furocoumarins and coming into contact with them can make you develop phytophotodermatitis. They include:

  • Figs
  • Carrots
  • Citrus fruits particularly lime
  • Celery
  • Wild dill

Bergapten

There is a subtype of phytophotodermatitis called berloque dermatitis. It is a rare condition caused by a substance known as Bergapten which is found in perfumes. It causes reaction on your skin and it is characterized by streak marks especially around your neck and wrists.

Risk Factors

A number of factors may trigger phytophotodermatitis in people and not everyone will have this condition after exposure to furocoumarins. They include:

  • Those people who have had contact dermatitis with substances such as cleaning agents and metals are at a higher risk of developing this condition.
  • When you are farming, you may come into contact with plants that have furocoumarins and this may cause phytophotodermatitis.
  • When you walk or do some activities in wooded places, you are at a greater risk of having this condition.
  • When you touch plants that have sap, you may be exposed to furocoumarins.
  • When you touch plants at midday when Ultraviolet rays’ levels are higher can trigger furocoumarins which reacts with your skin.
  • Phytophotodermatitis is more widespread during summer and spring. This is when plants are active in manufacturing substances which may be harmful to human skin.
  • During summer, most people like going outside for a walk or to have fun with the family and it is during this time you may come into contact with plants which have furocoumarins.

Symptoms

The symptoms of this condition vary and depend on the phase of reaction. When you first come into contact with furocoumarins, you will have itchy and irregular shaped blisters around your skin. These blisters appear on the areas which have been exposed to these plant chemicals. The most affected parts of your body include: arms, hands and legs.

Your skin may become red and fluid filled bubbles forms on the skin. When you touch the skin, it is tender and painful. Skin rashes may form all over your body.

After the first reaction, the blisters do not itch much and also the redness and swelling goes down. You will notice dark spots where blisters are present and this may last for some weeks or months.

 

Diagnosis

Several methods could be used to diagnose phytophotodermatitis such as:

Physical exam

In this exam, your doctor evaluates your past health record in order to understand the causes and sources of phytophotodermatitis. The doctor then assesses the signs and symptoms that are associated with this condition.

Phytophotodermatitis 2

Patch test

In this test, your doctor applies small amounts of allergens on your skin and leaves it for a several days. After these, your doctor observes your skin and if rashes or bumps develop on the applied area, you are allergic to that substance.

Biopsy

Your doctor would scrap a sample of your skin and takes it to laboratory for pathological assessment. The pathologist examines the sample under a microscope and performs tests to confirm the diagnosis of this condition.

Since there are many related medical conditions, other tests are required to rule out that the symptoms shown are those of Phytophotodermatitis and not other similar conditions.

Treatment

Several strategies can be used to treat and manage phytophotodermatitis. They include:

Tropical treatment

Your doctor can recommend tropical medication to relieve this condition. Your doctor may prescribe the following tropical treatment options: ointments, creams and lotions have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory which helps in easing inflammation caused by this condition. You may also use tropical steroid cream to soothe inflammation.

Medications

Your doctor can prescribe medications such as aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain. When this condition has become severe, you doctor may recommend oral steroids and IV fluids to manage the condition.

Other drugs your doctor may suggest include: Oral corticosteroids to help decrease inflammation; antihistamines could be used to minimize painful itching feelings.

For some people, these signs and symptoms disappear when causative agents are removed without any treatment.

Home Remedies

The following simple home remedy tips can help you manage this condition effectively at the comfort of your home. They include:

  • Avoid scratching the affected areas because doing this would worsen the situation and even expose you to other infections.
  • Put on smooth cotton clothes.
  • Apply cool wet compress on the affected places on the skin.
  • Use detergents, soap and perfumes that are gentle on your skin.
  • Take a cool bath to relieve your skin.

Phytophotodermatitis 3

Complications

A number of complications could result from Phytophotodermatitis such as:

Infections

As your skin continues to itch, it becomes moist. This provides a suitable environment for bacteria and fungi to reproduce and cause infections on your skin.

Allergy

You may also experience painful allergic reactions.

Stress

This condition may lead to discoloration of the skin and this may be cause stress and anxiety in some people who are affected.

Prevention

Several measures can be taken to prevent phytophotodermatitis. They include:

  • The first step in preventing this condition is to identify the causative agent (plants and plant products and allergens). Then stay away from these causative agents.
  • Wash your skin with water when you come in contact with allergic substances.
  • Use appropriate sunscreens and clothes that shield you from the sun to avoid exposure to ultraviolet rays.
  • Apply a protective cream on your skin to protect it.
  • Put on gloves if your work involves coming into contact with plants.

Reference List

  1. Phytophotodermatitis. http://www.dovemed.com/diseases-conditions/phytophotodermatitis/
  2. https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/phytophotodermatitis/
  3. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1119566-clinical
  4. Phytophotodermatitis. http://www.healthline.com/health/skin-disorders/phytophotodermatitis#symptoms2

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