Can a positive photopatch test be elicited by subclinical irritancy or allergy plus suberythemal UV exposure?

P. E. Beattie, N. J. Traynor, J. A. Woods, R. S. Dawe, J. Ferguson, S. H. Ibbotson

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    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Photopatch test (PhPT) interpretation is difficult and clinical relevance is not always apparent. A positive PhPT may reflect photocontact allergy or phototoxicity. We hypothesized that it may also reflect the additive or synergistic effects of a suberythemal reaction to a contact irritant [e.g. sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)] or allergen (e.g. nickel) and suberythemal UV exposure. 10 nickel allergic volunteers had duplicate SLS and nickel series applied on either side of the back for 24 h and 48 h, respectively. After removal, one side was irradiated with 5 J/cm(2) UVA or the dose below the minimal erythema dose for solar-simulated radiation (SSR). The minimal irritancy dose (MID) for SLS and the minimal allergenic dose (MAD) for nickel were determined visually and objectively by erythema meter. While photoaugmentation of subclinical contact allergy or irritancy occurred in some subjects, photosuppression occurred in roughly an equal number. UVA changed the nickel MAD at 48 h in 2 of 5 volunteers but not the SLS MID. SSR changed the nickel MAD in 4 of 5 and the SLS MID in 3 of 5. 2 subjects (none after UVA) showed erythema only in the irradiated set of patches, which could have been interpreted as a positive PhPT. We have demonstrated photoaugmentation and photosuppression of contact allergy and irritancy, which could result in false-positive or false-negative interpretation of PhPTs.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)235-240
    Number of pages6
    JournalContact Dermatitis
    Issue number5-6
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2004


    • Nickel
    • Photoaugmentation
    • Photocontact allergy
    • Photopatch test
    • Photosuppression
    • Sodium lauryl sulfate


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