Photosensitivity on Concerta
April 27, 2013 8:47 AM   Subscribe

I've recently become unusually sensitive to sunlight. This seems to coincide with starting concerta, and apparently it may be an unlikely but documented side effect (PDF) though I haven't been able to find very much info on it. So even with sunscreen, a 4-block walk on a cloudy day can mean that I burn. I've started buying different sunscreens with the highest SPF I can find and so far nothing seems to make much of a difference.

Concerta is turning out to be a wonder drug for me. I mean life-changing. It's the 4th ADHD med I've tried and I really really like it. But it's not even summer yet and I already have burns on my neck, face and hands. I hate the idea of spending the summer all covered up and not wearing pretty sundresses. I also hate the idea of trying yet another med when this one works so well, though I realize I may have to do that.

I'm at a loss here. Has anyone else had this problem - due to concerta or other causes? What did you do? Is there a magic sunscreen I should try? (I'm seriously considering buying 10 different sunscreens, getting a friend to paint stripes of different sunscreens on my back and label each one, lie in the sun for 5 minutes and see which burn is worse. Because if I have to try 10 or 20 different sunscreens before one works that's a whole lot of burning and being miserable and after you have so much burn it's hard to tell what's working anymore).

I appreciate a little "why" background on answers - if you have had a problem with photosensitivity or finding the right sunscreen, especially as related to concerta, OR if you're a doc who has helped patients with related problems, etc, that would be really valuable for me. Thank you!

(I've brought this up with my prescriber, she is not aware of this as a side effect to concerta. So I feel like it's on me to make a decision whether I go on with this drug or change, and the key to that is figuring out if I can make it work).
posted by bunderful to Health & Fitness (5 answers total)
Are you using the physical block sunscreens? I use those when I'm outside, not that I've had any drug reactions, but I live in sunny SoCal and it's hard to avoid.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:52 AM on April 27, 2013

I feel like a trip to a dermatologist to ask for prescription grade sunblock might be one option for you. What a bummer that something that's helping you so much is the cause of such a rotten side effect. :( It sucks that there is a trade off with so many drugs sometimes.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:05 AM on April 27, 2013

I haven't had this problem, but may I respectfully suggest that you try a 5th or a 5th ADHD med? There are quite a few to choose from, and you can always go back to Concerta if it really is your one true love.

Other than that, I suggest you get a hat with at least a 2-inch brim; if you have a long head get one with a low crown, vice versa if you have a short head.

I don't know if you're going to have to spend the summer covering up all the time, but maybe you could look into dress styles from cultures that get a lot of sun but stay covered up. The salwar kameez template could be an option for you.
posted by tel3path at 10:34 AM on April 27, 2013

I have photosensitivity and I handle it with clothing. I always wear a hat when I'm out in the sun, and I have some very thin cotton tops that I wear outdoors if I have short sleeves on. My dermatologist was more about the covering up than the sunscreen, though she certainly advised wearing sunscreen as well.
posted by camyram at 10:42 AM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Physical sunscreens like hat and long sleeves are probably the way to go, also maybe try a zinc based sunscreen instead of one that uses chemicals. As an Aussie that grew up slathering sunscreen on and I've noticed since moving to the US my extended family here put sunscreen on like it's some rare magical potion, you need to slather that stuff on and let it soak into your skin. If you are using a chemical sunscreen you need to give it 15 minutes or so before you go outside to start working.

More info here.

I am not an expert, just a very pale skinned Aussie who burns super easily and got lectured by my doctor as he cut out my 2nd pre cancerous mole. I am super fussy about sunscreen now a days.
posted by wwax at 11:14 AM on April 27, 2013

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