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Polymorphous light eruption

Last reviewed: 5 Sep 2023
Last updated: 30 Jul 2020



History and exam

Key diagnostic factors

  • recurrent history of lesions following ultraviolet radiation exposure
  • young women and adolescents
  • family history of PLE
  • severe itching
  • reduced symptoms over the course of a year
  • erythematous patches
  • papules
  • plaques
  • vesicles
More key diagnostic factors

Risk factors

  • ultraviolet A exposure
  • oxidative stress/reactive oxygen species
  • family history of PLE
  • female sex
More risk factors

Diagnostic investigations

Investigations to consider

  • phototesting and photoprovocation
  • skin biopsy
More investigations to consider

Treatment algorithm


papular type (typical PLE) and plaque type with few small plaques

plaque type with widespread thick plaques + vesiculobullous variant



Mieran Sethi, MBBS, BSc, MRCP, PhD

Dermatology Registrar

St Mary's Hospital




MS has been reimbursed by Vichy and La Roche Posay for presenting video clips and attending conferences about skin disease.

Shirin Zaheri, MBBS, BSc, MRCP

Consultant Dermatologist

Charing Cross/Hammersmith Hospital

Imperial College Hospitals NHS Trust




SZ has received honoraria for speaking at, facilitating and/or attending meetings/advisory boards from L'Oreal, AbbVie, and Eli Lilly, and has had expenses sponsored for attending meetings by Leo, Novartis, L'Oreal and Naos.


Dr Mieran Sethi and Dr Shirin Zaheri would like to gratefully acknowledge Dr Catherine Hardman, Dr Sarah Hogan and Dr Ina Marion Hadshiew, previous contributors to this topic. CH, SH and IMH declare that they have no competing interests.

Peer reviewers

Erhard Holzle, MD

Professor and Chair

Department of Dermatology

Stadtische Kliniken




EH declares that he has no competing interests.

  • Polymorphous light eruption images
  • Differentials

    • Photoallergic reaction
    • Phototoxic reaction
    • Chronic actinic dermatitis
    More Differentials
  • Guidelines

    • British Association of Dermatologists and British Photodermatology Group guidelines for the safe and effective use of psoralen-ultraviolet A therapy 2015
    • Sunlight exposure: risks and benefits
    More Guidelines
  • Patient leaflets


    More Patient leaflets
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