Have you ever noticed that when you step outside on a sunny day, your mind suddenly feels clearer, brighter, and more energized? You may be familiar with how a dose of sunlight affects your mental wellbeing, but how does it affect your body?
Sun exposure can be good or bad for your body—the answer depends on how protected you are against UV radiation, and how long you’re exposed. Too much sun can have detrimental effects on your hands and joints.
We’re going to examine the ways that UV radiation affects our bodies, and what you can do to protect yourself:
Side Effects of Overexposure
Are you concerned about how UV rays impact different parts of your body? The side effects of too much sun are well documented. Your hands and joints are particularly sensitive to the effects of sunlight.
After a long day in the sun, you may experience symptoms like:
- Sun allergy (photodermatitis). Similar to sunburn, this causes the skin to become blistered, itchy, and bumpy. It may also result in nausea, headaches, and fevers.
- Pain and swelling. The joints themselves may react negatively to sunlight. In the areas where your skin was exposed, the tissue might feel tender and sore.
- A higher risk of developing skin cancer. One of the greatest risks of overexposure is that it can lead to skin cancer. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancer cases are caused by UV radiation exposure. This disease claims thousands of lives each year.
If you’re spending the day outdoors, ward off these effects by staying hydrated and protecting your skin.
Vitamin D & Your Joints
As you may already know, the sun is an excellent source of vitamin D. By ingesting the recommended amount of vitamin D every day, you can help prevent bone loss or osteoporosis.
Given that sunlight is a great way to increase your intake of vitamin D, soaking up the sun can protect your bones and joints. While too much sunlight can be harmful, too little may put you at risk of developing bone conditions.
But what if you’d prefer to get your dose of nutrients in a safer way? You can adjust your diet to consume vitamin D in higher quantities. Foods like tuna, salmon, mushrooms, milk, and orange juice can contain high levels of this nutrient. Altering your diet is a great option for those with sensitivities to sunlight. You can also take D vitamins.
Can sunlight be beneficial for your hands and joints? In moderation, yes. There’s nothing wrong with a dose of sunshine, as long as you apply for the proper protection first.
How Sunlight & Arthritis Interact
For those with arthritis, sunlight can affect the body in adverse ways.
Arthritis is a chronic condition that causes inflammation and pain in the joints. It commonly affects areas like the hands, knees, neck, shoulders, and wrists. Prolonged exposure to sunlight without protection can be harmful to anyone, but for those with conditions like arthritis, it can be especially damaging, and it may trigger a flare-up.
Those with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or osteoarthritis need to take extra precautions when spending time in the sun. A few of the medications that arthritis patients take to manage symptoms may increase their sensitivity to sunlight. These may include:
It’s surprising how many medications affect the way your body tolerates sunlight—even antibiotics can cause sun sensitivity. If you are taking medication, be sure to research whether it increases your photosensitivity, and plan accordingly. Being properly prepared for a day in the sun can prevent you from developing a painful rash or an arthritis flare-up.
Protect Your Hands & Joints From Sun Damage
We only get one body during our lives, so it’s in our best interest to take care of it. We rely on our arms, legs, and wrists to perform essential tasks. If they cause us significant pain, it may inconvenience us on a daily basis.
How can you soak up the sun without putting yourself at risk of adverse effects? We’ve compiled a few tips for you:
- Always apply sunscreen before stepping outside. This one almost goes without saying, but it’s worth repeating. Whenever you anticipate that you’ll be in the sun, protect your skin with sunscreen. Not just any lotion will do—look for one with protection against UVA and UVB rays, with SPF of at least 30.
Even if you aren’t outside directly, you can still get a sunburn from sitting in a car or in front of a window. You can even get sunburns on cloudy days! We recommend taking a tube of sunscreen or a light jacket with you whenever you’re going outside.
- Indulge in aftercare. Rejuvenate your hands by applying a deep moisturizing lotion. If you’re experiencing significant discomfort, you can apply a cream with capsaicin or aloe vera. Be sure to drink a lot of water to prevent dehydration!
- Talk to your doctor. If you’re concerned about how sunlight is affecting your body, bring it up with your healthcare provider. They can provide medical advice about how to properly protect yourself against ultraviolet radiation. If a medication that you take is causing the issue, they may be able to recommend another one.
The next time you schedule a long day of lounging in the sun, consider how the UV radiation could affect your hands, legs, and joints.
- Avoid sunlight during peak hours. Some people seem to get sunburned no matter what precautions they take. Those with high photosensitivity may develop rashes even after mild exposure. You may want to steer clear of UV rays when the sun is at its highest, which will vary based on where you live and what time of year it is. Use the Sun Index mobile app to find out when is the best time to go out to limit your exposure.
For those with conditions like arthritis, an unsafe level of UV rays can give them more than a sunburn—it may increase their risk of a flare-up or rash.
Arming yourself with knowledge is the best way to protect yourself. By recognizing that you may be more susceptible to adverse effects from sun exposure, you’ll be more inclined to remember your sunscreen and other sun protection.