Can Your Meds Make You More Sensitive To Sun And Heat?
Physicians and pharmacists often advise patients to avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight while taking certain medications without telling them why. Those patients that do not heed this warning may later find a red itchy rash or sunburn in areas left unprotected from sunlight or the light emitted by tanning beds. Medications that react with the skin in this manner are termed photosensitisers. Examples include tetracycline and its derivatives, fluorquinolone antibiotics (such as Cipro), sulfa-containing drugs (such as Bactrim) and the cardiac medication amiodarone (which is sold under the brand name Cordarone). These photosensitisers, or chromophores, possess a unique ability to absorb ultraviolet light at the particular wavelength spectrum found in sunlight or artificial sunlight (UVA and UVB). This ability, however, is not the problem. Instead the unique structural characteristics of these medications¿such as halogenated aromatic rings or alternating single and double bonds¿lead to the destabilisation of their chemical structure and a transfer of energy that induces a buildup of damaging compounds in the skin. It is important to note that not all people will develop a reaction to a photosensitiser. Fair-skinned people may be more susceptible, much as they are to sun damage in general. Credit: Christopher McCoy for Scientific American.
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