This August, we are continuing our Skin Condition of the Month blog series by highlighting one of the most insidious skin conditions – sunburns. While this skin condition is widespread and typically short-lived, it can lead to long-term skin damage. To help you better understand sunburns, our experts here at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta are answering the question, “What are the long-term health effects of sunburns?”
What Is a Sunburn?
The body may experience an inflammatory reaction to ultraviolet radiation (UV) when out in the sun for extended periods. This reaction can result in the painful red, blistering, swollen skin condition commonly known as sunburn. Many people may not realize when they get a sunburn, it’s a potentially dangerous skin condition and should be treated with great care to avoid long-term skin damage.
Long-Term Effects of Sunburns
If you have a sunburn, try not to scratch blisters or irritated skin. Doing so could put you at risk for a potential bacterial infection. Additionally, sunburns can activate the herpes virus in some patients. If you experience signs of a bacterial infection such as severe swelling, oozing, and redness, or symptoms of herpes such as a cold sore, schedule an appointment with us immediately for a professional evaluation.
Sunburns range in severity, but it is important to note that just five sunburns in your lifetime could more than double your risk of developing melanoma. Sun damage is cumulative, meaning it builds up over time with repeated exposure. The more often you get a sunburn, the greater your chances of finding melanoma and other forms of skin cancers later on. It is important to note that melanoma has a 99% 5-year survival rate when detected early. That is why scheduling your yearly skin check with us is essential.
If you thought gravity was aging you, think again! UV light is responsible for 90% of visible changes to the skin. This process is called photoaging and accumulates slowly over time, showing up later in the form of sunspots, actinic keratoses (AKs), melasma, wrinkles, collagen loss, and dull skin.
While we offer a variety of treatment solutions to mitigate the long-term side effects of sunburns, the best defense is prevention. Here are some sunburn prevention tips:
- Wear sun protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses
- Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher (even on overcast, cold days and in the car)
- Reapply sunscreen as needed
- Avoid the outdoors during peak sun hours (10:00 am – 4:00 pm)
- Avoid tanning beds at all times
Although the summertime is coming to a close, we urge you to continue protecting yourself and your loved ones from harmful UV rays! If you are concerned about the long-term impact of sun exposure on your skin, call Dermatology Associates of Atlanta to schedule a consultation today. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and to subscribe to our newsletter for regular practice updates, skin care tips, and more. Stay tuned to see what our next Skin Condition of the Month will be!