Polymorphous Light Eruption (PLE), also referred to as Polymorphic Light Eruption (PMLE), is a commonly occurring skin condition caused due to extended periods of contact with harmful UV radiations, either outdoors under sunlight, or in indoor tanning beds where artificial emissions are employed.

Both UVA (can penetrate through glass surfaces), as well as UVB (cannot pierce through glass) radiations, can trigger this photosensitivity in people, which means that even facing the sun through a window could lead to this skin disease.

Polymorphous Light Eruption

This disorder is characterized by rashes that develop on the exposed regions of the skin namely the scalp on your head, face, neck, chest and arms. These rashes appear in the form of bulging reddened spots or dry patches. In general, fair-skinned women are more prone to PLE than dark- skinned women and men, but it could affect the latter too.

Additionally, PLE does run in families, so it could be inherited in some cases, and although it causes much distress and pain to the affected individual, it is not life threatening.

This skin malady is often mistaken for prickly heat, which is a much less severe ailment. Hence, one should always consult with a physician promptly upon developing any signs of PLE, to ensure accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment can be provided.


The symptoms of polymorphic light eruption consist of:

  • Rashes typically red in color, on exposed areas of skin
  • Burning and itching on skin
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches

Diagnosis And Treatment

The doctor first analyses the patient’s external physical parameters and makes a note of any incidents of PLE that may have been recorded in his or her family history. Afterwards, laboratory assessments such as skin biopsy and blood tests are performed to confirm the incidence of PLE.

Treatment usually consists prescription steroid creams and ointments to be applied topically, on the areas of skin affected by the rashes. The healthcare provider also strongly advises the affected individual to always apply sunscreen of SPF (sun protection factor) 30 or above before going out, and also at regular intervals if staying outdoors for prolonged periods of time.

In more severe cases of PLE, a procedure called phototherapy is counselled by the doctor, which involves exposing skin to small doses of UVA or UVB light, to assist the skin in becoming less sensitive to light radiation.