One Patient's Positive Perspectives

Posts tagged ‘UV’

Lupus and enjoying the small outdoors

moonlit back yard

Life  with systemic lupus has taught me that the pleasure of enjoying the sun’s warming rays is vastly overrated.  For many lupus patients who love the “great outdoors,” the size and scope of our fresh air experiences may need to be much smaller than we would like.  For me, sun exposure is a strictly forbidden pleasure, so satisfying my desire for “wilderness experiences” is often limited to the span of my large covered patio, front porch and moonlit back yard.  After nightfall, the world of the “small outdoors” opens up with great and promising possibilities.

fresh air, sans the sunshine

Why all this ultraviolet dodging and apprehension?  Why not simply step out into the sunlight of day and enjoy?  Many of us with lupus have sun sensitivity. When the spectrum of light contained in the sun’s warming rays strikes our skin, and penetrates into the tissues beneath, it causes more than warmth and comfort. UV light has the ability to activate the lupus antibodies that it touches as it passes through our translucent layers of skin.  So, I carefully dodge its downward daily flood of damaging rays and look for other ways to fulfill my longing for fresh air, sans the sunshine.

the backyard at night

So, here I stroll awhile in my back yard enjoying a quiet night’s walk with my dog through the damp lawn beneath our feet. Delighting in the fragrance of the newly mown grass in the yard, tonight is pleasant and refreshing as I drink in the cool night air of this late spring evening.

The dog romps around my feet begging me to join him in the simple amusement of a game of fetch. The pale glow of solar lamps lining the lawn provides faint light for his frolicking, as his impish exuberance entertains me.

enjoying the small outdoors

My favorite spot here is my porch swing, as I gently rock in time with cricket song and a nearby mockingbird with an identity crisis.  In this calm night, I can hear a faint rustling of a slow breeze blowing through the dark shadows of nearby trees, as the swaying moonlit silhouettes frame my yard and the “small outdoors” around me.  Here, I find peace and relaxation in the “nature experience” of my nighttime lupus adventure.

Lupus and an interesting new UV detecting jewelry product line

Kudos to developers of new UV sun detection product

A visitor to my blog provided information today about a very interesting UV related new product website.  While usually extremely sparing on endorsement of specific products, this new product fascinated me in light of lupus sun sensitivity.  The Sunny Beadz jewelry product line was started in 2011 and was recently featured in gift baskets provided at the Grammy Awards in LA.

Beads in these necklaces change colors in the sun and presence of UV light, becoming increasingly vivid colors as the UV intensity increases.  Kudos for the creative application of technology and sun protection ideas by the Sunny Sleevez company, that also produces arm protection UV blocking “sleeves”!

Check out their website, and the link below for more information about their purple butterfly UV color change necklace and other UV detecting and protection products.

sunnybeadz.com

Lupus patients and UV light in today’s winter solstice

UV light least during winter solstice

Today is the official day on my calendar marking the winter solstice for the earth’s northern hemisphere.  Today is the single day in the year when the entire earth and its north pole are the farthest away from the sun in its orbit.  For sun intolerant lupus patients, today is technically the single day all year with the least danger for UV sun exposure.  So, today a lupus patient could safely linger a few moments longer outside in the sun.

This morning, I did just that!  Standing outside in the cool morning air, I lingered just a bit longer, sipping my hot coffee with the sun’s warmth bathing my shoulders and back.  Watching my amusing dog play on the grass just a few minutes longer than normal, I was smiling and thoroughly enjoying his cheerful exuberance.  Today, I enjoyed a few more rare moments of sun-drenched simple joy.

Safest day for UV Exposure

The winter solstice usually falls between December 21 to 23 in the Northern Hemisphere, and June 20 to 23 in the Southern Hemisphere.  Today’s cooler winter weather is caused by a combination of changing physical conditions coinciding during the winter solstice, but is primarily due to sunlight striking the earth’s surface from the lowest angle in the sky.  Today, the earth travels in its oblong orbit at its farthest distance from the sun.  Today is this year’s shortest day, and tonight will be its longest night.

Earth's Orbit

Today the North Pole will be completely dark all day and night as it falls completely into the shadowed half of the earth facing away from the sun.  Six months from now, a noon sunbeam will strike from high in the sky, but not today.   Today, because the earth’s north pole tilts away from the sun, the same sunbeam travels farther through the earth’s atmosphere and enters it from a lower point in the sky.  Also, today’s same sunbeam covers a larger area of the ground, warming a larger space less efficiently while spreading its total energy more thinly.   Today all the winter cooling factors have their greatest effect.

What does all this mean for a lupus patient or any person with sun sensitivity?  Today is probably the safest day all year for lupus patients to be exposed to the sun’s light, including its UV rays.  But still, we need to wear our sunscreen and remember to be careful out there!

Lupus at the Labor Day Picnic

Wonderful balmy afternoon breeze

Labor Day means picnics, grilling in the park, volleyball, softball, children laughing and fun with family.  However, with Lupus, a day in the park,  basking in the last of the summer’s heat, takes on new challenges.  So, the family set up a shade canopy in the double-shading of the biggest trees, surrounded by a ring of lawn chairs and picnic coolers.

So taking “center stage,” there were countless pleasant conversations enjoyed with those who stopped by to share the picnic blanket.  Slathered in sun screen, and dressed to block the extra UV rays, I was well-positioned for a long restful sun-safe day in the park.  A sister, brother, daughter-in-law, niece, cousins and kin of every other label were delightful visitors to my cool grassy oasis.

Perfect last day of vacation!

I had a wonderful opportunity to share my shady shelter with a couple of extremely little folks, primarily the diaper and toddler crowd!  I expanded some very important relationships with the wee folks in my life.  They certainly know how to enjoy a relaxing balmy afternoon.

Taking notes, I watched as my little granddaughter lifted her face to feel the gentle cool breeze on her cheeks, smiling and giggling as the gentle tickling flow of air made her wispy hair dance.  Learning a little better how to unwind and enjoy the moment, I joyed in my granddaughter and her companions keeping company with me as adept mentors and relaxation coaches.

I am thanking God for this pleasant, love-filled and perfect last day of our vacation!

Lupus and failing my solar math quiz

How much sun is too much for lupus?

How much sun is too much for a lupus patient?  I have heard that 15 minutes per day is pretty much the maximum daily sun any wise lupus patient should absorb.  However, what about little snippets of sunshine, spread out throughout a single day?  Do they count?  I recently learned the hard way how important it is to do the math and add up the day’s total sun exposure.

About 10 days ago, we conducted interviews for a vacant position in the local government law office where I am the legal administrator.  Our legal department has two divisions, one in the main building and a second in the court building.  It was my (self-assigned) role on interview day to walk the final eight candidates to the second office, while conducting a guided tour of the campus.

Dressed, but no hat!

When I dressed that morning, I knew I would be walking outside more than normal, so I wore slacks and a long-sleeved shirt.  However, that was not enough planning.  I didn’t give the sun much more thought, preoccupied with the details of the day’s schedule and coordinating two panels and various tours of our offices.  I failed to consider my need for a hat, and to prepare for repeated applications of sun screen.

This was a major misstep toward failing the upcoming solar math quiz I would face on interview day.

Between both offices is a beautiful desert-landscaped campus.  I picked up each guest at our main office.  After exiting down several stairs outside the building, we crossed the campus on lovely tree-lined walkways, and passed a through a delightful botanical garden.   Crossing this plaza usually takes about 5 minutes,  However, strolling and chatting with a guest took a few minutes longer.  Sometimes, lingering for a moment in the shade,  intent on discussion of a specific thought or topic before continuing on our way.

Walking between the buildings

This was a perfect setting for conducting a casual walking interview.  Our conversations covered interesting high points in the history of the organization and our office, and discussed the workflow and computer issues related to our completely paperless prosecution practice.   By the time the day was over I had thoroughly enjoyed my conversations with 8 uniquely different and highly qualified attorneys.  At the end of the day, I was well-prepared to discuss each candidate with the managing attorneys.

But, I had abysmally failed my solar math quiz!

By the end of the day I had accumulated a total of 2 full hours in the sun.  It didn’t seem like that much, until I did the math.

Each interview caused me to get approximately 15 minutes of sun, half on the way to the court, and half returning to our main office.  After eight interviews, I had accumulated at least 120 minutes in the sun.  I was on my feet all day, as well, and gave my tired aching bones a much longer-than-normal workout.

At the end of the day, I was beginning to realize my folly.  I was thoroughly exhausted, and my feet hurt.  By the next morning, I had no question that I had failed to calculate the potential impact of my misguided actions.

Failing my solar math test!

Morning greeted me with a full-blown flare of my lupus.  My joints were painful and swollen, my arthritis flared, and the long bones inside my arms and legs ached deeply.  New mouth and nose ulcers had erupted overnight, and my pervasive malaise and profound brain fog were debilitating.  My over exertion and over exposure had triggered a whopping lupus flare and overwhelming fatigue.

I had no one to blame but myself, since I had set up the interview schedules and assignments.  My own poor preparation for the solar quiz, resulted in my grade of  “F” for failing, fatigue and flare!  What was I thinking?

In response to the self-induced lupus flare, in the days that followed I had to shorten my work hours.  Several of the following mornings I stayed home due to the flare and increased severity of my morning lupus symptoms.  The next time, I hope I remember my recent flare and folly, and remember to assign someone else to cover outside duty.

Lupus, fishing poles, and a North Pole ozone hole?

Blackfoot River in western Montana

I have always been fond of nature, but would not describe myself as a nature nut.  When you cannot spend more than 15 minutes in the sun without aggravating lupus, its kind of difficult to enjoy the great outdoors, unless you are willing to sit by a lake braving the mosquitoes and gnats to go midnight fishing for catfish.

This evening I had a nice chat with my brother who lives in Montana.  He is pretty down-to-earth and a true lover of nature in the purest sense.  He is an amazing fisherman, and a brilliant, quietly intelligent man.

A few years ago, the two of us went fishing early one cold September Montana dawn on the Blackfoot River (the same river in the movie “A River Runs Through It”.)  That morning we caught several 20 inch trout and whitefish, and took them home for a wonderful breakfast.  We were back home with our bountiful catch long before the morning sun hit the chilly river banks.

My brother really understands nature as very few people do.  He can look under a rock on the shore of lake or river, and tell from the tiny creatures in the mud what kind of fish are swimming down in the depths of water below.

This evening, we started by talking about our aging dad, and then ended up discussing ozone.  I’m not sure how we got there, but with my brother, a wonderful conversation can meander through a countryside of topics and arrive at some of the most interesting destinations!

North Pole ozone hole?

My brother got to telling me about recent news of a hole forming in the arctic ozone layer.  In Montana, the arctic almost counts as local news.  I admitted I knew very little about the ozone layer (and have always shrugged off the fluorocarbon hype.)   Going on into the ozone layer, we chatted some about lightning, O2 (oxygen) and O3 (ozone) molecules and how they are formed and destroyed.

Leave it to my brother to gab with me about ideas as diverse as fishing for trout, and ozone in the atmosphere.  He is not a predictable fellow, and talking with him is an adventure and education every time.

While my brother explained ozone creation and destruction, I Googled “north pole ozone hole.”  I found a wonderful recent article on the National Geographic website precisely discussing our topic of the evening.  I went back to read it later, and enjoyed the beautiful picture heading the story, with a touch of the aurora borealis in the background.  What an interesting read!

A took an interesting tidbit away from the environmental news article to apply to lupus.  I learned that the ozone layer filters out UV light, and that thin ozone filters less and allows more UV to pass through the atmosphere.  The article explains that the effect of thinning ozone is seasonally increased, especially during the spring.

Although the article did not mention lupus specifically, I could clearly see the lupus-application of excellent admonitions about sunburn and skin cancer found in the article:

“The stratosphere’s global blanket of ozone—about 12 miles (20 kilometers) above Earth—blocks most of the sun’s high-frequency ultraviolet (UV) rays from hitting Earth’s surface, largely preventing sunburn and skin cancer.”

“A good message for people [is] to just be aware that this is a year where ozone will be likely thinner this spring.”

“You should watch out for your skin and put on your sunscreen.”

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/110321-ozone-layer-hole-arctic-north-pole-science-environment-uv-sunscreen/

A lupus patients should be aware that UV light can trigger flares due to increased activity of ANA (anti-nuclear antibodies) when the UV passes through the layers of a lupus patient’s skin and strikes ANA in her body’s tissues.

So, I guess if I am going to let the sun warm my shoulders for that extra moment or two, I’d better be careful to put on the sun screen first.

So, let’s be careful out there,  and don’t forget the sunscreen!

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