Does venlafaxine cause photosensitivity? (+9 symptoms)

In this article, we will discuss the photosensitivity associated with the use of venlafaxine. We will also discuss the mechanism, symptoms, and management of venlafaxine-induced photosensitivity.

Does venlafaxine cause photosensitivity?

Yes, venlafaxine can cause photosensitivity. It is a side effect in which a person’s skin becomes more sensitive to sunlight or ultraviolet (UV) radiation while taking the medication. This heightened sensitivity can lead to an increased risk of sunburn or skin damage when exposed to the sun.

Venlafaxine is a prescription drug used to treat conditions such as major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and certain types of anxiety disorders. It is categorized as a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) and works by affecting the balance of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. It enhances the mood and makes you feel more happy (1).

What factors can contribute to venlafaxine-induced phototoxicity?

Increased photosensitivity associated with venlafaxine may be influenced by several factors. Factors that can contribute to photosensitivity include:

  • Lifestyle factors, including direct exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet (UV) light, especially for a prolonged period and inadequate sun protection during outdoor activities increase the risk of photosensitivity induced by venlafaxine.
  • Higher doses and prolonged use of venlafaxine may potentially increase the risk of various side effects associated with this medication including photosensitivity and skin-related side effects.


  • Some individuals are more susceptible to the adverse drug reactions of venlafaxine including photosensitivity because of their sensitive skin and other genetic factors. Individual responses to medications vary, and some people might be more sensitive to sunlight than others.


  • Patient-specific characteristics such as fair skin, a history of sunburns, and older age are associated with an increased risk of venlafaxine-induced photosensitivity.


  • Concurrent use of other medications such as tetracyclines, with venlafaxine that are known to cause photosensitivity can potentiate the venlafaxine-induced photosensitivity, enhancing the overall effect.

It’s important for individuals taking venlafaxine to be aware of these factors and consult with a healthcare professional so they can provide personalized guidance based on individual health factors.

What does research suggest?

Research on photosensitivity induced by venlafaxine is limited, and while a definitive understanding is yet to be established, some studies have suggested a potential association between venlafaxine and the development of photosensitivity (2). 

According to some research findings, venlafaxine has been linked to photosensitivity, indicating that individuals taking this medication may experience heightened sensitivity to sunlight or ultraviolet (UV) radiation (2,3).

Research studies have suggested that venlafaxine may be associated with certain skin-related side effects such as paresthesia, rash, sensitivity to sunlight, skin itching, pruritus, redness of the skin, ecchymosis, and bruising (5).

Research on venlafaxine indicated that the patients experienced increased sun sensitivity and around 5% of individuals exposed to venlafaxine reported angioedema, emphasizing the need for monitoring and further investigation into these dermatological side effects (7).

Research studies suggested a case involving a woman with a history of depression revealed significant bruising lasting for 10 days after initiating venlafaxine. The patient observed small bruises, mainly on her lower extremities, starting and worsening with venlafaxine use (6).

What is the mechanism of venlafaxine-induced photosensitivity? 

The exact mechanism of venlafaxine-induced photosensitivity is not well-documented in scientific literature. Photosensitivity as a side effect of certain medications, including some antidepressants like venlafaxine, is a complex phenomenon that can involve various pathways and interactions in the body (3).

One possible explanation is that the drug or its metabolites may make the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. This increased sensitivity can result in a greater risk of sunburn and other skin reactions.

It may be related to the drug’s effects on neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which can affect various physiological processes in the body, including skin responses to UV radiation (3).

However, the specific mechanisms and pathways involved are not fully understood, and the exact cause of photosensitivity as a side effect of venlafaxine may vary from person to person.

What are the symptoms of venlafaxine-induced photosensitivity?

The symptoms of venlafaxine-induced photosensitivity can vary from person to person, but they typically involve skin reactions after exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Common symptoms of photosensitivity induced by venlafaxine or other medications may include (4):

  • Itching on the skin
  • blisters
  • swelling
  • sunburn
  • skin discoloration
  • edema 
  • rash
  • redness
  • pigmentation

It’s essential to be vigilant about these symptoms and take precautions to protect your skin from UV exposure while taking venlafaxine or any other medication that may induce photosensitivity.

How to manage venlafaxine-induced photosensitivity? 

Management of venlafaxine-induced photosensitivity involves taking steps to protect your skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation while still receiving the benefits of the medication. Here are some strategies for managing venlafaxine-induced photosensitivity:

  • The most crucial aspect of the management of venlafaxine-induced photosensitivity is to minimize ultraviolet (UV) exposure. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) on all exposed skin areas, before going out. SPF is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UV rays from damaging the skin. A higher SPF value offers a marginal increase in sun protection. 


  • Discuss your photosensitivity with your healthcare provider. They may consider adjusting your venlafaxine dosage, switching to a different medication, or altering your treatment plan to minimize this side effect.


  • Be vigilant about changes in your skin and promptly report any new or concerning skin issues to your healthcare provider.


  • In severe cases or if you have a history of skin problems, your healthcare provider may refer you to a dermatologist for specialized care and advice. 

Remember that management may require a combination of these approaches, and it’s crucial to work closely with your healthcare provider to develop an effective plan that meets your specific needs and minimizes the risk of venlafaxine-induced photosensitivity.


In conclusion, based on my knowledge and experience, it is evident that venlafaxine is associated with photosensitivity. The research studies and the experiences of individuals using this medication underscore the importance of understanding and managing the potential risks of heightened sensitivity to sunlight and UV radiation.

This awareness can aid healthcare professionals and patients in taking proactive measures to mitigate the impact of photosensitivity and ensure safer and more effective treatment with venlafaxine.


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Kowalska J, Rok J, Rzepka Z, Wrześniok D. Drug-Induced Photosensitivity-From Light and Chemistry to Biological Reactions and Clinical Symptoms. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2021 Jul 26;14(8):723. doi: 10.3390/ph14080723. PMID: 34451820; PMCID: PMC8401619.


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Erol, A. & Ermete, M. & Aydin, O.. (2008). P.2.a.029 A possible case of venlafaxine-associated parapsoriasis. European Neuropsychopharmacology – EUR NEUROPSYCHOPHARMACOL. 18. 10.1016/S0924-977X(08)70418-8.


Carpenter JE, Fombi J, Udoka O, Holder-Perkins V. Venlafaxine-Induced Bruising: A Case Report. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2016 May 5;18(3):10.4088/PCC.15l01886. doi: 10.4088/PCC.15l01886. PMID: 27722026; PMCID: PMC5035804.


Griffin H, Pearson S, Linnebur S, Fixen D. A case of venlafaxine-induced angioedema in an older adult. SAGE Open Med Case Rep. 2021 Sep 30;9:2050313X211050465. doi: 10.1177/2050313X211050465. PMID: 34616557; PMCID: PMC8488410.

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