Known scientifically as 'actinic dermatitis', sunburn is your skin's response to overexposure to UV radiation. The skin turns red and becomes hot and painful. Severe sunburn can cause swelling and blistering due to burn to living tissue – the skin. While dark skin helps protect the skin from such a reaction through a large amount of melanin which absorbs damaging solar radiation, fair skin contains a smaller amount of melanin and therefore burns more easily and is more susceptible to damage. In other words, such sunburn causes injury to the skin with inflammation, tenderness following excessive exposure to the sunlight. This problem is commonly faced during the summer season. However, cold weather does not make one immune to bad sunburn when the sun reflecting off snow can cause burns on exposed skin. If the skin has been burnt, it could take months to return to normal and sunburn is also linked with skin cancer later on.
Symptoms of sunburn
Probably, the signature symptom of sunburn is bright red skin that is painful to touch. Peeling after sunburn is probably the body's way of getting rid of damaged cells. This is necessary as cells damaged by the sun are at risk of 'losing control' and becoming cancerous. The damaged cells commit a sort of suicide by repair mechanisms of these cells. After this peeling off, skin cells are replaced by other cells underneath those layers. As the peeling skin heals, it may become itchy. It can take months for the skin to return to normal.
Sunburn blister treatment
Sun blisters are areas of raised skin that contain fluid and may develop several hours after the initial prolonged sun exposure. Sun blisters cannot be taken lightly and studies point out that it is five times more susceptible to skin cancer. The risk of having skin cancer doubles if you have suffered from severe sunburn blister during childhood or adolescence.
Do not stay out long between 10 am and 4 pm. This is when the sun's rays are the strongest. Wear protective clothing. Opt for lightweight fabrics that are cool and which give sun protection. Do not forget sunglasses, as eyes can get sunburn too. And above all, the simple way to avoid sunburn is to go in a shaded area. Else use an umbrella.
Windburn is not sunburn in the winter. It feels similar as in it makes the skin red, dry and irritated. Any exposed skin can get windburn. This happens in the cold temperature with low humidity. It robs the skin of its natural oils making it start peeling. The blood vessels in the skin's outer layer start dilating making the skin appear red. The skin then becomes sensitive to any product. Skiers and winter runners suffer this condition if not adequately protected.
Preventing and treating windburn
Cover your skin before exposing to cold winds. Wear a hat and sunglasses. Apply thick moisturizer to exposed skin every few hours.
If your skin is already sore with windburn, wash it with lukewarm water and apply a healing moisturizer. Coconut oil also works well. Keep yourself well hydrated and stay in humidified room if possible. Stay clear of harsh exfoliators on the skin. Allow the peeling to heal the skin and resist the urge to pick at it.
Aloe Vera Gel, cucumber, potato slices or oatmeal are excellent home remedies to soothe windburned skin. You can also apply Vitamin E oil or a paste of cornstarch or baking soda.
Windburn Vs Sunburn
Sunburn and Windburn may appear alike and often occur together but are not same. It often becomes difficult to be able to distinguish.
Windburn occurs due to depletion of natural oils from the outer layer of the skin. It does not result in long-term skin damage. It is similar to 'irritant dermatitis'. Preventive measures include covering the skin and keeping it well moisturized.
Sunburn occurs due to harmful UV rays of the sun causing damage to the skin cells resulting in discoloration and age spots. Prolonged sun exposure and sunburn can lead to skin cancer.
Melanoma, a type of skin cancer is categorized into four types, three are 'in situ' and the fourth type is invasive. In situ is a very early stage of melanoma and does not invade enough to be considered invasive. Lentigo Maligna is 'in situ'. The cancer cells are in the top layer of the skin (epidermis) and are contained in the area in which the cells started to develop. If left untreated, 'in situ' lentigo maligna can become invasive.
Lentigo Maligna - ABCD rule
Initially, it appears as a mole in the sun exposed areas. Over time, it grows into an odd-looking, multi-colored structure that doesn't go away. The ABCD rule is useful to recognize lentigo maligna. Considering these as lentigo maligna symptoms, without any delay, it is best to seek medical attention.
A: Stands for asymmetry. The mole can be anywhere on the skin which is not symmetric in shape.
B: Stands for border. The border of the mole is ragged, notched, and irregular.
C: Stands for color. The mole is multi-colored, a mixture of brown, black, red, blue or white in varying shades and patterns.
D: Stands for diameter. The size of the mole is more than 6mm.
Lentigo maligna diagnosis
Post a visual examination of the affected areas, a skin biopsy is recommended by the doctor. A biopsy is required for diagnosis. The biopsy involves removing the growth and a small part of the surrounding skin to analyze it under a microscope. Confirming lentigo maligna diagnosis, the doctor determines the best course of treatment.
Lentigo maligna treatment
Early detection and medical attention restrains the lesions or mole from spreading across the skin's surface. If left untreated, it can spread deeper into the skin and can eventually pass to other parts of the body.
Slow Mohs is a preferred surgical technique for completely removing the melanoma. Along with it, about 5mm margin of normal tissue is also excised. Radiation or cryosurgery is resorted to when the lesion is difficult to access and excise. Under local anaesthesia, surgery is performed. Healthy tissues around the area are also removed as a precautionary step leaving no cancerous cells. If the mole or lesion is in an area where spare skin is not available, like the face or lower leg, skin graft to remove the lesions may be required. A plastic surgeon would remove skin and replace it from another area. A follow-up visit may or may not be required.
Lentigo maligna self care tips
Lentigo maligna is not hereditary but it is more likely to develop when a close relative has suffered a melanoma. Self care tips can prevent getting another lentigo maligna.
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Bibliography / Reference
Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: February 2, 2023