The ultraviolet B (UVB) inflammatory pain model is often used to induce a steady hyperalgesic area in human skin. UVB causes a well-described erythema, developing maximal response within about 24 h. The aim of the present study was to investigate if cutaneous UVB irradiation can influence both superficial and deep-tissue mechanical pain thresholds in the site of irradiation and in the surrounding area.
An area of 3 cm × 4 cm, located on the low back of 16 healthy volunteers, was irradiated by UVB (Medlight, Germany; 3xMED: Minimal Erythema Dose). The degree of inflammation was detected by measuring superficial blood flow before and after irradiation, inside and outside the stimulated area. Applying quantitative sensory assessments, mechanical pain threshold changes were detected one day after irradiation, within and outside of the irradiated area. Sensitivity to cutaneous mechanical stimuli was assessed using pin prick and deep-tissue pressure pain thresholds were evaluated on 12 spots (4 within and 8 outside, 1.5 cm distant from the irradiated area) by a computer-controlled pressure algometer (Aalborg University, Denmark; 1.0 cm2 flat probe, 0.5 cm2 flat probe and a V-shaped probe with a contact surface of 0.03 cm2).
24 h after exposure, the irradiated skin showed clear erythema with a boundary matching the irradiated area and a statistically significant increase in cutaneous blood flow (P < 0.001) compared with baseline assessment. Cutaneous pin prick pain thresholds and deep-tissue pressure pain thresholds (all probes) were significantly decreased inside and outside the irradiated area (P < 0.05).
Cutaneous UVB irradiation reduces mechanical pain thresholds to pin-prick and pressure stimulation which may indicate allodynic responses in both the skin and in deep-tissues. Expansion of the responses to areas outside the irradiated zone confirmed the presence of secondary hyperalgesia to mechanical stimuli.
© 2012 Scandinavian Association for the Study of Pain