Atopic Dermatitis and Sun Exposure

atopic dermatitis favoriteplusYou may always have heard that getting the right amount of natural sunlight is beneficial for people with atopic dermatitis. Well, this rumor is true. As a matter of fact, for those with severe atopic dermatitis, some dermatologists recommend treatment with medical-grade ultraviolet light.

However, some individuals with atopic dermatitis are more likely to get a sunburn, particularly when they are applying topical steroids. Hence, most people with atopic dermatitis should be very cautious about too much exposure to the sun.

It wasn’t entirely clear why exposure to the sun helps atopic dermatitis. But, a new study indicates that vitamin D may be the key factor. Taking oral vitamin D supplements has been shown to increase the production of cathelicidin in the skin of those with atopic dermatitis.

Cathelicidin, an antimicrobial peptide, is a skin protein that protects us against skin infections caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Individuals with atopic dermatitis have little amounts of this immune defense in their skin. As a result, their skin is prone to get colonized and infected by bacteria, fungi, and viruses, which is known to worsen atopic dermatitis.

According to studies, vitamin D influences the immune response through the regulation of cathelicidin, which is the only antimicrobial peptide produced by humans. Macrophages and neutrophils produce cathelicidin. The cells lining the epithelial surfaces of the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, and the skin also produce cathelicidin since these are the areas regularly exposed to potential pathogens.

The role of cathelicidin explains why people with atopic dermatitis get better with moderate amounts of sun exposure. Natural sun exposure causes the skin to produce vitamin D, which may help those with atopic dermatitis produce cathelicidin.

Individuals affected with the skin condition should consult their dermatologist before taking any vitamin D supplements.  And while moderate amounts of exposure to natural sunlight may be healthy, do avoid tanning salons. 


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