By Gary White, MD
Phytophotdermaititis is a type of phototoxicity (in contrast to a photoallergy).
- Phototoxicity clinically resembles an exaggerated sunburn. The incidence is comparatively higher, it may occur on the first exposure, the dose of the chemical and ultraviolet radiation are important and the diagnosis is clinical.
- Common causes of phytophotodermatitis include contact with lime, lemon, celery, parsnip, and figs.
- Some patients develop this after using lime or lemon juice applied to their hair while out in the sun in an attempt to bleach their hair [BJD 2000;142;1069].
- The most common cause in San Diego (personal observation) is contact with limes on a sunny day. Patients may be at the beach or park and use limes for either drinks or in salads. One child picked limes from a lime tree while playing outside.
- Fig leaf application to the feet has been used as a home remedy for onychomycosis, psoriasis, eczema and other complaints of the feet. The patients then go out in the sun and develop a severe sunburn/blistering [Ann Dermatol. 2017 Feb;29(1):86-90. ].
The area is like a burn. Redness, pain and inflammation develop hours to 1-2 days after exposure. Within a few days, the area takes on a red/brown color.
Further sun exposure should of course be avoided. A topical steroid and/or a soothing cream may ease symptoms until the condition resolves. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation is common. The color may take months to return to normal A topical bleaching cream may be given after the inflammation resolves.
Woman who made ceviche with lime and lemon and then went out in the sun.
Fig tree and the sun.
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