Sunburn: Its Causes, Processes, and Long-Term Implications

GERNIE BALBIN     16th Nov 2023

Sunburn: Its Causes, Processes, and Long-Term Implications

What is Sunburn?

Sunburn, caused by prolonged exposure to UV rays, affects millions worldwide. Though the visible signs may seem temporary, the impact on skin health can last. Join us as we explore the causes of sunburn, the body's processes, and the potential long-term effects on the skin.

Causes of Sunburn

A. Ultraviolet Radiation and its Variants

Sunburn results from overexposure to UVA and UVB rays. UVA penetrates deeply, contributing to premature ageing, while UVB causes immediate damage and the characteristic redness.

B. Sunburn Risk Factors

  • Fair Skin: People with fair skin are more vulnerable due to lower melanin levels.
  • Time and Location: Risk increases with midday exposure and closeness to the equator.
  • Altitude: Higher altitudes raise risk due to less atmospheric UV filtration.
  • Medications and Sensitivity: Some medications make the skin more sensitive, increasing the risk.

Physiological Processes of Sunburn

A. Inflammatory Response

  • Initial Redness: UVB rays cause immediate redness and warmth.
  • Blood Vessel Dilation: Damaged skin makes blood vessels widen, making the redness more intense.

B. DNA Damage

  • UV-Induced DNA Breaks: Direct damage leads to mutations, raising the risk of skin cancer.
  • Pigment Production: More melanin is produced to absorb UV radiation, resulting in a tan but not complete protection.

Short-Term Effects of Sunburn

A. Pain and Discomfort

  • Painful and itchy skin
  • Peeling and blistering in most severe cases as damaged skin sheds.

B. Dehydration and Heat Exhaustion

  • Potential dehydration due to increased water loss.
  • Heat-related illnesses like nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.

Long-Term Effects of Sunburn

A. Premature Ageing

  • Wrinkles and fine lines caused by UV radiation accelerates collagen and elastin breakdown.
  • Sun Spots due to prolonged exposure

B. Increased Risk of Skin Cancer

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma: Chronic exposure heightens the risk of this common form of skin cancer.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Melanoma: UV radiation links to an increased risk of these serious skin cancers.

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Understanding sunburn goes beyond the discomfort you can see; it means knowing the intricate processes and potential long-term effects. With this knowledge, we can make smart choices about sun protection, taking care of our skin for the future. So, as we enjoy the sun, let's be responsible and use our wisdom to avoid and lessen the effects of sunburn.

Related Article: The Importance of Sun Protection

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