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Sun Burn
Sun Damage

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Sun Exposure causes most of the skin changes that we think of as a normal part of aging. Over time, the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays damages the supporting fibers (collagen and elastin) in the skin. When these fibers breakdown, the skin looses it's elasticity, (loses its ability to go back into place after stretching) and begins to sag. The skin becomes fragile and bruises and tears more easily. It also takes longer to heal. All these changes in the skin can be attributed to the sun damage which become more pronounced as we age.

How does it Happen?

UVA and UVB (long and short wavelengths of ultraviolet light), are the components of sunlight responsible for sun damage i.e. sun burn and cancerous changes in the skin. Exposure to the sunrays causes:

  • Sun Burn
  • Pre-cancerous skin conditions (actinic keratosis).
  • Skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma)
  • Benign skin tumors
  • Fine and coarse wrinkles
  • Freckles
  • Age spots
  • Mottled Pigmentation or discolored areas of the skin
  • Sallowness or a yellow discoloration of the skin.
  • Telangiectasias or dilation of small blood vessels under the skin.
  • Elastosis or destruction of the elastic tissue causing lines and wrinkles.

Sun Burn

Definition

Sun burn is skin burned by excessive (prolonged) exposure to the sun or other ultraviolet light.

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Causes

Sunburn results when the amount of exposure to the sun or other ultraviolet light source exceeds the ability of the body's protective pigment, melanin, to protect the skin. Sunburn in a very light-skinned person may occur in less than 15 minutes of midday sun exposure, while a dark-skinned person may tolerate the same exposure for hours.

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Implications

As we age, the melanin containing cells in the skin become less effective, so it is more critical to protect ourselves from sun exposure. Sunburn is not immediately apparent. By the time the skin starts to become painful and red, the damage has been done. The pain is worst between 6 and 48 hours after sun exposure. In severe sunburns, blistering of the skin may occur.
Swelling of the skin, especially in the legs, is common. Toxins are released which causes fever. Skin peeling usually begins between three and eight days after exposure. The long-term consequences of prolonged exposure to the sun are significant. One blistering sunburn doubles the likelihood of developing malignant melanoma. Chronic sun exposure causes premature wrinkling and aging of the skin. Age spots are a result of sun exposure. Skin cancer (basal cell and squamous cell cancer) is directly related to the amount of sun exposure (determined by skin pigmentation and hours in the sun). Finally, sun exposure and ultraviolet damage have been implicated in the development of cataracts.

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What You Can Do

  • Protect the skin from the sun rays by wearing light colored clothing, broad brimmed hat and ultraviolet protection coated sunglasses.

  • Wear a sunscreen with high sun protection factor (SPF) preferably above 15. Sunscreen should be generously applied on exposed areas of the body including the face.

  • To relieve sunburn pain, try taking a cool shower or bath or placing wet, cold wash rags on the burn.

  • Ibuprofen may help to alleviate the pain from sunburn. If the skin is not blistering, moisturizing cream may be applied to relieve discomfort.

  • Avoid the use of Vaseline and products containing benzocaine

  • If blisters are present, dry bandages may help prevent infection.

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Sun Damage