Date amended:
Statements of Principles
Current RMA Instruments
Reasonable Hypothesis SOP
82 of 2020
Balance of Probabilities SOP 
83 of 2020
Changes from previous Instruments


ICD Coding
  • ICD-9-CM Codes: 692.72
  • ICD-10-AM Codes: L56.2
Brief description

Photocontact dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition.  It results when a substance that comes into contact with an area of skin causes a photosensitivity reaction when that part of skin is also exposed to light (usually sunlight).  The SOP covers both phototoxic contact dermatitis and photoallergic contact dermatitis.  It does not cover a photosensitivity reaction to a substance taken internally into the body (e.g. an ingested drug).

Confirming the diagnosis

The diagnosis is typically made on clinical grounds based on findings on examination and a careful history.  Phototesting or photopatch testing may be undertaken in some cases.  Biopsy and histopathology may also be performed.

The relevant medical specialist is a dermatologist.

Additional diagnoses covered by SOP
  • Allergic photocontact dermatitis
  • Irritant photocontact dermatitis
  • phytophotodermatitis (from topical exposure to plant-derived substances)
Conditions not covered by SOP
  • Allergic contact dermatitis
  • Irritant contact dermatitis
  • Systemic allergic dermatitis
  • Dermatitis due a substance taken internally
  • Sunburn - not a disease
Clinical onset

For phototoxic contact dermatitis the condition typically presents as an exagerated sunburn in the area of exposed skin, appearing within minutes to hours of sun exposure.  For photoallergic reactions pruritic, eczematous eruptions develop in sun-exposed areas of skin, typically between 24 to 48 hours after sun exposure.

Clinical worsening

The conditions typically resolve with cessation of skin exposure to the causative agent (e.g. topical drug, cosmetics, sunscreen, plant substance).  Chronic skin changes can develop.  Treatment is otherwise non-specific and may include sun protection measures and use of topical steroids for photoallergic dermatitis.