What is Solar Purpura & How is it Treated?| Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Prevention of Solar Purpura

What Is Solar Purpura?

Solar purpura is a benign form of pupura that is related to sun exposure. It mostly occurs in elderly people, and the effects are more pronounced in fair-skinned individuals. Excessive exposure to sunlight may lead to skin damage to an extent that the affected individual may start experiencing easy bruising and bleeding in the skin tissues. The individual starts experiencing profuse bleeding with even the slightest of bruises. This is what is referred to as Solar Purpura. The lesions caused by Solar Purpura appear as spots on the skin that are red in color but some lesions may have a purplish tinge to it as well. Solar Purpura is a benign condition and not related in any form or manner to skin cancer.

It is also known as Actinic purpura and Senile purpura. Solar Purpura normally affects people above the age of 60 and is very rarely seen in the young population. This is because the elderly people have a compromised immune system and their body’s defense mechanism does not work the way it should. This results in them having conditions like Solar Purpura if they are exposed to sunlight excessively as the weakened immune system causes the blood vessels to become weak and rupture easily.

Solar Purpura affects the inner layer of the skin known as the dermis. The sunlight contains harmful ultraviolet rays which is detrimental for the skin. If an individual, especially an aged individual is exposed to sunlight for long hours, the skin starts to lose its elasticity and is not able to provide adequate support to the blood vessels. This results in them rupturing even with slightest of injury as a result of Solar Purpura.

What Is Solar Purpura?

What Causes Solar Purpura?

Sun Exposure: This is the most common cause for Solar Purpura. The ultraviolet rays from the sun cause significant damage to the skin which in turn loses its elasticity. This makes the blood vessels weak. If the sun exposure is not controlled over time the skin integrity is lost and the blood vessels starts to rupture even with slightest injury due to Solar Purpura. The characteristic red color to the lesions caused by Solar Purpura is from the red blood cells that come to the surface of the skin due to ruptured blood vessels and when the red blood cells break down it gives the lesions a purple tinge.

Injury: This is yet another cause for Solar Purpura. The injury may have been caused decades ago and potentially healed but it may be a potential cause for Solar Purpura. Over time the injury along with weakening of the blood vessels due to age and excessive sun exposure results in the development of Solar Purpura.

Age: This is a very important cause for Solar Purpura. There are different physical and chemical changes taking place in the body with age. An old person will have a weak immune system and the skin and the blood vessels become very fragile due to age related changes. This in combination with excessive sun exposure leads to Solar Purpura.


There are certain medications, such as Aspirin, that can worsen the skin condition caused by solar purpura. However, medications, on their own, do not cause solar purpura.

What are the Signs & Symptoms of Solar Purpura?

The main sign of solar purpura is the appearance of red or purple skin patches. Some other signs and symptoms of these skin patches include the following.

Skin Discoloration:

Bleeding from blood vessels that lie in the dermis, results in the appearance of dark patches on the overlying skin. Initially, these patches are red in color. However, over time, the color of the skin patches changes from red to purple or blue in color. Eventually, the skin patch may turn to black in color. These patches are of irregular shape, and are similar to those that are caused by bruising of the skin. Usually there is no itching or pain associated with these discolored patches of skin.

Localized Patches On Skin:

The discolored skin patches in solar purpura are most commonly located in the areas of the skin that are most exposed to sunlight. For example, skin patches in solar purpura typically appear on the extensor surface or the back of the hand, forearms, face and neck. Usually fingers are not involved.

Purple Or Yellow Skin Rash:

The skin patches resolves on their own within 1-3 weeks. Usually no treatment is required for these patches in solar purpura. However, even after the disappearance of the purple or red skin patches, the affected skin areas may continue to have a yellowish tinge for a few weeks or even a few months.

Other Symptoms: 

Dark patch on the skin is the primary symptom of Solar Purpura. These patches are formed due to bleeding from an injury or cut. Initially these patches are red in color but with time there is a purplish tinge to it. Ultimately, these patches become black in color. These patches are not regular in shape ane may be about 2 mm in diameter. 

The skin patches are normally found on the back of the hands but may also be found on the forearm but the fingers are spared. The face and neck may be affected as well. It is noteworthy that these regions are generally the parts of the body that are exposed to direct sunlight regularly. 

How Is Solar Purpura Diagnosed?

A visual inspection of the patches of the skin along with a detailed history highlighting any excessive exposure to sunlight can lead to a confirmed diagnosis of Solar Purpura. Sometimes, a skin biopsy may be done to rule out other etiologies for the symptoms. Other than this, there is no specific test to give a definitive diagnosis for Solar Purpura.

How is Solar Purpura Treated and Ways to Prevent Recurrence?

Most of the damaged caused due to Solar purpura, resolves without treatment within three weeks. However, yellowed areas may persist for several months, even after the blood is reabsorbed and the purple or blue area begin to fade.

Solar Purpura is a benign condition which is self limiting and goes away on its own and hence no treatment is necessary. However, preventing Solar Purpura is far more important than its actual treatment. Some of the treatments that can be given for Solar Purpura are use of Tretinoin which may clear up the skin damage, although it does not clear the patches that have been formed.

Skin Creams: Additionally, creams rich in vitamin K can be recommended for treating the discolored patches on the skin but again they cannot prevent recurrence of Solar Purpura. Thus, it is always better to prevent occurrence of Solar Purpura rather than treat it. 

Moisturizing Creams And Lotions: Though there is no specific treatment for solar purpura, yet, moisturizing creams or lotions may be used to improve the skin elasticity and also for reducing further skin damage.

Protect Skin From Further Sun Damage: It is also essential for you to protect your skin from further sun damage by applying a sunscreen any time you are outside and also by avoiding indoor tanning lamps and beds. Covering the legs and arms with tight weave long sleeves and pants offers further protection.

Solar Purpura: Prevention

There is no proper way to prevent solar purpura. However, in order to reduce the chance of getting the condition, you need to follow some of the ways we have mentioned.

Solar Purpura can be prevented by:

Reduce Sun Exposure:

Reduce the sun exposure. Limit the amount of time that you spend in the sun. Apart from this, limit the exposure of skin to direct sunlight.

Apply Sunscreens:

Apply sunscreen whenever outdoors. This might limit the damage caused by direct sun exposure. Sunscreen lotions must be used from a young age, so as to prevent long term damage to the skin by chronic exposure to the Ultraviolet rays of the sun. 

Use Skin Moisturizers:

Dry skin is more susceptible to the damage caused by exposure to sunlight. So, it is good to use skin moisturizers that may help limit the skin damage upon exposure to sunlight.

Protect Exposed Skin:

Always use sunscreen lotions on your exposed skin when outdoors and make sure that your sunscreen has a sun protection factor or SPF of at least 30 days and says, “broad spectrum” on the label. Make use of it every day, even if it is cloudy.

Apart from this, wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants whenever outdoors.

Protect Your Skin From Injury:

It is essential for you to protect your skin from injury. Make sure you wear gloves while you are doing garden or yard work. Put paddling on handrails and walkers.

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