Preventing Phytophotodermatitis A.K.A Lime Disease
Hello! My name is Dr. Lela Lankerani, and I’m a Dermatologist here at Westlake Dermatology. Today we’ll be discussing phytophotodermatitis, also known as “lime disease” or “margarita photodermatitis”.
Phytophotodermatitis is a skin reaction that occurs when skin that comes into contact with lime juice (as well as other botanical herbs, vegetables, or fruits) is exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun.
This is a timely topic since it’s summertime and many people will be enjoying cocktails such as margaritas or drinking Corona beers with limes outdoors. Often as people squeeze lime slices into their drink some lime juice can drip down their forearms. Or if we’re wearing a bathing suit a bit of lime juice can fall on the exposed skin. Either case is all that is needed to create an interaction between the sunshine and the chemical compound called furocoumarins that is found in limes.
As the furocoumarins remnants left on the skin interact with UV radiation the patient will initially feel a burning sensation. Then within 24-48 hours they’ll notice blisters. The skin may look streaky, and most people will think, “Hey, did I get into poison ivy? What’s happening here?” Over time the blisters will resolve themselves but can leave a post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, the appearance of flat brown or red streaks on the skin.
The good news is that most cases of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation are self-limited and can resolve without intervention. No treatment is necessary unless there is itchiness, inflammation, then we recommend cortisone creams and just the tincture of time.
If you feel like your skin has come into contact with the juice of a lime try to wipe if off your skin soon as possible. Wearing a high-quality sunscreen while outdoors can also prevent phytophotodermatitis.