I’ve been missing from the blog for some time now. I just realised that I haven’t posted anything new in ages and I tell you, the site stats are flatter than flat! Please excuse me. I had a lot to keeep up with and as most of those with Lupus know, our energy levels are limited and I do have to prioritize to keep up with other things. So, it’s Summer! Meaning: minimal Reynaud’s symptoms (YAY!)…a bit of swelling of the fingers (GRRR!)…BUT more bouts of fatigue (NOOOOOO!)! And, oh, the Sun!
Those who do not have Lupus should take heed as well! According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer in more common on the left hand side (face, neck and left arm) of American drivers. It also happens to be more common on the right hand side of Australian drivers. These drive on opposite sides of the road so the drivers are exposed to the sun differently.
In Lupies, the risk of cancer is there but we also are at risk of disease flare ups when exposed to the sun. These are not limited to skin eruptions but also generalised flare ups involving organs and they most often present 2-3 weeks after exposure. That means that we have to take care not to expose ourselves unnecessarily. How?
If possible, avoid exposure to the sun especially between 10am and 4pm (in Summer).
Remember that a cloudy day is not a UV free day. Most rays still pass through the clouds.
If you’re in a car, keep the windows up. The glass blocks away the harmful UVB rays (short wave). Unfortunately the UVA waves are not blocked, so an alternative like clothing or a window screen might be needed. There are clear versions of this, so it does not have to be tinted and the one approved by the Skin Cancer Foundation is provided by LLumar. They even produce a larger version for window panes in buildings. I am currently awaiting a reply to see if it is possible to have this shipped to Malta.
Sunscreen: Use sunscreen wisely. It’s effectiveness is measured in SPF (Sun Protection Factor). A high factor sunscreen is important. Apply it generously and make sure to apply it every so often. How often? Many say that a sunscreen has to be reapplied according to the SPF factor it carries, yes, but some think that the SPF is the duration in minutes you can stay in the sun in between applications. That is: Apply SPF50 sunblock every 50 minutes. Not really.
According to the School of Medicine of the University of California and San Francisco, the effectiveness of sunscreen is not the same for everyone. Once one determines the length of time it takes for one to suffer a burn (redness to the skin), then that can be multiplied by the SPF of the product to know when sunscreen has to be reapplied. For example, I get sunburnt after 10 minutes in the sun. So I multiply SPF 30 X 10 minutes = 300 minutes in between aplications. I reapply sunscreen SPF 30 every 4-5 hours. Having said this, most sunscreens only block UVB rays, which visibly damage the skin (causing the sunburn). UVA rays are often not blocked by most screens and these are the most harmful when it comes to skin cancer and flare ups of SLE.
Clothing: Wear long sleeves: I have an issue with these as I feel very hot in Summer AND, I have to wear a short sleeve at work. If it is not possible to wear certain clothing, first, try to bargain your position or use alternatives like this. I try to wear long sleeves when possible and take the off when in the shade. Second, try wearing UV blocking clothing of UPF 40+. I am currently trying to use my own uniforms (rather than those which are standard issue) which are made of UV blocking materials.
A piece of advice: I am in the process of reading through The Lupus Encyclopedia by Dr. Donald E. Thomar Jr. who is also on Facebook. It’s an easy read…..and a must for all those who suffer from Lupus. Worth every penny!
Until the next one, keep safe!