Decreasing UV exposure from fluorescent lights

Lupus Foundation of America

Resource Content

In some people that are photosensitive, UV light from sunlight and indoor light sources can trigger a lupus flare. In addition to sunlight, ultraviolet rays are also given off by several different forms of indoor lighting, including compact fluorescent lamps (CFL’s). CFL’s are commonly long, cylinder shaped and usually coated in white. They are considered energy-saving and are meant to substitute the older incandescent light bulbs that existed prior to these; however, CFL’s emit more UV light than incandescent bulbs did. Fluorescent bulbs emit varying levels of ultraviolet radiation, so look for those that emit the lowest amounts of UV radiation and try to use light shields and lamp shades whenever possible. 

If a standard fluorescent tube lighting source is shielded by a standard acrylic plastic diffuser, there’s rarely a significant risk for people with systemic lupus. These plastic diffusers are available from a variety of companies. If you are affected by light sensitivity, look for light shields that have nanometer readings of 380 to 400. This ensures complete filtering of UVB and UVC (especially damaging to exposed skin cells), and almost all UVA

However, if a person with lupus is exposed to unshielded fluorescent lighting at close distances for prolonged periods of time, then the cumulative exposure to UVB and UVA could be a problem. 

If you have a history of lupus flares when exposed to UV from compact fluorescent lighting, you may want to:
  • Apply a liberal layer of a 70 SPF or higher sunscreen daily, one that provides broad-spectrum- protection against both UVA and UVB rays. This should be done even when you are indoors.
  • Wear tightly woven clothing that covers your skin and a wide brimmed hat, when visiting brightly lit places. 
  • Choose light bulbs that have the lowest possible irradiance (intensity).
  • Cover fluorescent and halogen bulbs with light shields or filters that remove UV rays. Look for shields with readings of 380 to 400 nanometers, which filters all types of ultraviolet light.
  • Use UV-blocking shades to cover windows and prevent sunlight from streaming in.
  • Try LED bulbs. Anecdotally, some people with lupus have reported fewer flares when using the newer Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting; however, there is insufficient research at this time to draw any definitive conclusions.