Sunburn

Definition

Sunburn is the term for red, sometimes swollen and painful skin. Sunburn can vary from mild to severe. The extent depends on your skin type and the amount of exposure to the sun. Sunburn is a serious risk factor for skin cancer and for sun damage.
First Degree Burn (Superficial Burn)
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Causes

Sunburn is caused by overexposure to UV rays from the sun.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of sunburn include:
  • Being exposed to the sun
  • Having light skin color
  • Taking certain medications that may increase your sensitivity to the sun, such as, antibiotics, diuretics, and birth control pills
  • Living in certain areas, such as southern United States

Symptoms

The symptoms of sunburn vary from person to person. You may not notice redness of the skin for several hours after the burn has begun. Peak redness will take 12-24 hours.Symptoms can include:
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Pain
  • Blisters
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weakness

When to Call Your Doctor

A mild sunburn does not often require a visit to the doctor.See your doctor if you have a severe burn or if your burn symptoms are not improving after a few days.Call if you have:
  • Large areas of blistering
  • Fever
  • Extreme pain
  • Headache or confusion
  • Lightheadedness or vision changes
  • Severe swelling
  • Signs of infection, such as:
    • Having open blisters that are draining pus
    • Having areas of redness or red streaks spreading or moving away from open blisters

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. For more severe cases of sun damage, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders.

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