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The Mechanisms and Consequences of Ultraviolet-Induced Immunosuppression in the Skin and Eye

Norval, Mary D.Sc.

doi: 10.1097/ICL.0b013e31821d7573

Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) of the skin results in immune suppression to antigens encountered shortly after the exposure. The pathways leading to the downregulation in immunity are complex, initiated by chromophores located at the surface of the skin and ending with the generation of immunosuppressive mediators and regulatory cells. Ultraviolet-induced immunosuppression can be considered not only as beneficial, such as in preventing chronic inflammatory responses and allergic and automimmune reactions, but it can also be detrimental, such as in the lack of control of skin tumors and infectious diseases. The eye is an immune privileged site through a wide variety of mechanisms that allow selected immune responses without causing inflammation. The role of UVR in altering immune responses in the eye is not clear and is discussed in relation to photokeratitis, herpetic stromal keratitis, and pterygium.

From Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom.

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Prof Mary Norval, Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh EH8 9AG, Scotland; e-mail:

Accepted March 31, 2011.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.