PMLE: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is PMLE?

Polymorphous light eruption (PMLE) is an itchy rash caused by sun exposure in people who have developed sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity). Polymorphous light eruption occurs most often during spring and early summer when a persons exposure to sunlight increases. It is more common during adolescence and young adulthood, and occurs more frequently in females. It is also known as PLE, PME.
The name polymorphic, or polymorphous refers to the fact that the rash can take many forms, although in one individual it usually looks the same every time it appears. The rash appears most often on areas of the body that are usually covered during winter and exposed in summer: the upper chest, front of the neck and the arms.
Two types of PMLE are seen
  • Juvenile spring eruption is a cutaneous condition that affected the helices of the ears
  • Benign summer light eruption is a cutaneous condition, clinically short-lived, itchy, papular eruption particularly affecting young women after several hours of sunbathing at the beginning of summer or on sunny vacations.

Recovery Time

It may last from 1 to 7 days.


Diagnosis is mainly done by physical examination. Other tests which may be recommended include:
  • Skin biopsy
  • Blood test
  • Photo testing

FAQs prepared by doctor

Q1. What is PMLE?
Polymorphous light eruption also called polymorphic light eruption is a rash that shows up as a reaction to exposure to sunshine. Polymorphous signifies possessing various forms it can present as small red bumps, blisters or red patches. Usually the rash comes up on the arms, lower legs or chest. It is unusual for it to appear on the face. The inflammation is more often than not accompanied by itching or burning. Some individuals also feel flu-like symptoms.

Q2.  What are it’s symptoms?
  • Dense clusters of small bumps
  • Raised rough patches
  • Redness
  • Itching or burning (painful)

Q3.  What are the causes of PMLE?
The response is caused by ultraviolet light (both UVA and UVB). A mere 20 minutes in strong sunshine can set it off. Because UV light passes through glass, you do not need to be outdoors to be affected.
The rash generally begins in spring after the skin has been protected by clothes in the course of the winter months. The precise medical cause is not known, but is thought to be linked with the immune system.

Q4.  How much time it takes to recover?
Within 1-7 days the symptoms should recover

Q5.  What can you do to relieve or prevent polymorphous light eruption?
One of the best things to do is stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible. Wear clothing which keeps skin exposure to the bare minimum and use a decent sun lotion. Eat food rich in beta carotene. Avoid artificial sweeteners.
Try to acclimatize slowly when those sunny days arrive after the winter. This is especially important if you have experienced a rash such as this before but not had any idea that it could be polymorphous light eruption.

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