UV Lights Trigger SLE Disease Flares: Explained!


Sun exposure causes skin rashes on people with SLE, which also cause a flare in the prevalent disease. Moreover, this connection between disease flares and UV lights is very known with lupus. However, the mechanism behind the trigger is poorly understood.

Researchers from the Hospital of Special Surgery reported at ACR Convergence 2022 that they have found an underlying mechanism explaining this association. They said that it is deep lymphatic drainage contributing to lymph node photosensitivity and immune response.  

Furthermore, the researchers from the Hospital of Special Surgery reported finding the underlying mechanism that explains the association: decreased lymphatic drainage contributes to immune response and photosensitivity in the lymph nodes. Furthermore, the research also suggests boosting lymphatic drainage may effectively treat lupus autoimmunity and photosensitivity.

Theresa T. Lu, MD, PhD, senior author says,

When people with lupus have a systemic flare of their disease, it can affect any organ that is part of their disease,

We wanted to look at why sun exposure at the level of the skin affects internal organs like the kidneys, heart and lungs.

William Amber MD, the first author said,

This study sheds some light on how sun exposure and UV light cause people with lupus to have more autoantibodies in their blood,

According to research, there is a reduction in the lymphatic flow from the skin to the lymph nodes in people with lupus. Moreover, the hypothesis of the investigators claims that the decreased flow alters the immune response of the lymph nodes, making it pathogenic. Furthermore, they planned on looking at this communication more closely and its impact on immune function.

The current research consists of both samples of patients and mouse models of SLE. Moreover, the researchers reviewed skin biopsies of lupus patients and healthy volunteers. The lymphatic vessels were more dilated for lupus patients in contrast to the healthy controls. Hence, evidence shows that people with lupus have poor lymphatic flow.

Then, the researchers studied the mouse models of SLE with the help of a dye in the skin. It enabled them to visualize the lymphatic fluid flow. They found that UV radiation exposure in lupus patients led to more dye remaining in the skin. It was eventually providing evidence of poor clearance of lymphatic fluids.

Moreover, they also found that a reduction in lymphatic drainage in mice reduced plasma blasts and germinal centre B cells in number. These cells have vast importance for lupus.


Dr Amber and Dr Lu are hopeful that manual lymphatic drainage can benefit lupus patients. However, they emphasize that clinical trials are required to understand the effectiveness.


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