Photocontact Dermatitis and Its Clinical Mimics: an Overview for the Allergist

Margaret Snyder, Jake E. Turrentine, Ponciano D Cruz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Photo-contact dermatitis (PCD) describes the adverse cutaneous reaction that occurs in some patients as a result of simultaneous exposure to a contactant and to light. PCD can be subdivided into photo-allergic and photo-irritant dermatitis depending on whether the contactant respectively invokes an allergic or irritant reaction. Photo-irritant reactions are commonly caused by plants, psoralens, and medications taken internally, whereas photo-allergic reactions are commonly caused by sunscreens and topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. The work-up of photo-contact dermatitis includes a thorough history and physical exam augmented by patch and/or photopatch testing, as the cornerstone of treatment for PCD is identification and avoidance of the irritating or allergenic chemical. Photo-contact dermatitis has the potential to significantly impact quality of life, so an informed approach to diagnosis and management is critical. Clinical mimics of PCD include polymorphic light eruption, solar urticaria, actinic prurigo, hydroa vacciniforme, cutaneous porphyrias, and systemic disorders with photosensitivity such as lupus and dermatomyositis. Herein, we review the clinical presentation, differential diagnosis (including the clinical mimics mentioned above), pathogenic mechanisms, diagnostic testing, and therapeutic considerations for PCD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-40
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 15 2019


  • Photo-allergic dermatitis
  • Photo-contact dermatitis
  • Photo-irritant dermatitis
  • Photopatch testing
  • Solar urticaria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy


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