Photosensitive Seborrhoeic Dermatitis: Background information when reading Girl in the Dark

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Girl in the Dark

A Memoir

by Anna Lyndsey

Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey X
Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 272 pages

    Feb 2016, 272 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Sinéad Fitzgibbon
Buy This Book

About this Book

Photosensitive Seborrhoeic Dermatitis

This article relates to Girl in the Dark

Print Review

In Girl in the Dark, we hear a lot about how Photosensitive Seborrhoeic Dermatitis has impacted Anna Lyndsey's life but not so much about the condition itself.

Basic Seborrhoeic Dermatitis is, according to the Mayo Clinic, a common skin condition. Similar to eczema, it is characterized by red, inflamed skin, usually on the scalp, face, chest and back. Unsightly scaly patches are not unusual, and persistent dandruff is also a problem. While these symptoms, which range from unpleasant to painful, mean that flare-ups can be difficult to cope with, the disorder itself is not usually debilitating. Seborrhoeic Dermatitis does not usually adversely affect a person's ability to lead a relatively normal, fulfilled life. Anna Lyndsey's experience, however, was far from usual. Her particular misfortune was to develop a rare, life-crippling form of the disorder, one that is characterized by extreme light sensitivity. Anna became allergic to all forms of light - from the weakest indoor light bulb, to the fluorescent glare from her computer screen, to the most disabling of all, sunlight. Curiously, this would happen often without any discernibly visible evidence that her body was excruciatingly aflame.

So rare is Photosensitive Seborrhoeic Dermatitis that there are few statistics available. There are no helpful diagnostic shortcuts, no guidance on possible prognoses. Anna discovered, over the course of years of investigation, only one other person living with the disease in the UK. This lack of any sense of solidarity with fellow sufferers, coupled with the seclusion necessitated by the condition, means that patients become akin to ghosts, shadows of their former selves, spectres who are excluded from participation in the world at large.

Photosensitive Seborrhoeic Dermatitis is just one of a number of skin diseases caused by exposure to light. In the medical profession, they are called photodermatoses, and fall into four distinct causation categories: genetic (caused by DNA abnormalities), metabolic (when chemical reactions in the body disrupt normal functioning), exogenous (caused by external factors, usually reactions to certain drugs), or idiopathic (apparently spontaneous allergic reactions which can be traced to no known cause). Examples of genetic photodermatoses include Bloom's Disease (predominantly affecting Ashkenazi Jews) and certain forms of Lupus. Exogenous photodermatoses often occur as reactions to antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, fragrances, and topical creams. Polymorphic Light Eruption, which presents as an angry red rash, and is characterized by sensitivity to both UV and visible light, is the most common type of idiopathic reaction.

Anna Lyndsey's light sensitivity is also idiopathic and so extreme as to render her a very rare statistical anomaly. Medical research is a numbers game - research dollars go to apparently "worthier" diseases, afflicting greater proportions of the population. As long as this continues to be the case, those affected by the condition will continue to live a kind of half-life, condemned indefinitely to a suffocating, soul-destroying world of darkness.

Filed under Medicine, Science and Tech

This "beyond the book article" relates to Girl in the Dark. It originally ran in April 2015 and has been updated for the February 2016 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: If I Survive You
    If I Survive You
    by Jonathan Escoffery
    In If I Survive You, author Jonathan Escoffery portrays a family falling apart with grace. Main ...
  • Book Jacket: Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    by Sidik Fofana
    'Everybody got a story, everybody got a tale / Question is: Is it despair or prevail?' ...
  • Book Jacket: Fire Season
    Fire Season
    by Leyna Krow
    Fire Season is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that touches upon multiple genres and themes. It ...
  • Book Jacket: The Story of Russia
    The Story of Russia
    by Orlando Figes
    In The Story of Russia, British historian and writer Orlando Figes shares panoramic and ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Book Club Giveaway!
Win A Minor Chorus

A Minor Chorus

A debut novel from a rising literary star that brings the modern queer and Indigenous experience into sharp relief.



Solve this clue:

Y Can't G H A

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.