Polymorphic Light Eruption

Authored by Dr Jan Sambrook, 02 Apr 2015

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr John Cox, 02 Apr 2015

Polymorphic light eruption (PMLE) is a skin rash that can happen when you go out in the sun.

What is it?

Polymorphic light eruption (PMLE) is a particular type of rash that occurs as a reaction to sunlight on the skin. The name comes from polymorphic eruption, which means a rash that has many forms.

When does it happen?

Polymorphic light eruption (PMLE) is most likely to occur in spring or early summer when your skin is not used to sunshine, or perhaps when you go on holiday to a sunny place. It can keep coming back as your skin gets used to the sun but is usually less severe each time it appears and it gets better more quickly.

PMLE is not the same as sunburn. You can't catch PMLE (it is not infectious) and it has nothing to do with skin cancer.

Who gets it?

Polymorphic light eruption (PMLE) mostly affects people aged 20-40 years. It is more common in women. It probably affects around 1 in 10 European women.

It doesn't only occur in people with pale skin; it can also occur in people with darker skin.

The problem is more common in countries with temperate climates - that is, neither hot like the tropics nor cold. Northern Europe and much of North America have temperate climates.

Will it ever go away?

Some people get polymorphic light eruption (PMLE) each year. It starts each spring with a rash that lasts for up to a week, and then comes back if you go out in the sun again. But it usually is less severe each time it comes back.

Sometimes it will stop of its own accord but many women who are affected by it find that it doesn't come back after the menopause.


The picture shows a typical rash of PMLE, although it can vary from person to person.

Further reading and references

He went to one doc and he said since it was scabbing up to see what it would do. Pics are below.https://ibb.co/i4iy06https://ibb.co/e3yWL6https://ibb.co/nqsQf6Anybody know what this is?

Health Tools

Feeling unwell?

Assess your symptoms online with our free symptom checker.

Start symptom checker