Psoriasis is a disease where skin cells build so rapidly on the surface of the skin that a scale-like, itchy and red patchy surface forms. Along with topical and oral medication therapy, natural or artificial ultraviolet light therapy (phototherapy) has been shown to help control and improve symptoms of psoriasis.
Small, daily doses of the ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight can be helpful in the treatment of psoriasis. UV light rays kill cells in the skin, resulting in a slower turnover of skin cells, scaling and inflammation. However, more is not better in this case. Excess sun exposure can make psoriasis worse. So it's important to ask your doctor about how much sunlight you should receive.
Broadband UVB Phototherapy
Regulated exposure to artificial UVB light may help the symptoms of mild to moderate psoriasis. UVB is used to treat psoriasis when topical treatments have not worked. Side effects include itching, dry skin and redness. But these can be improved by using a moisturizer recommended by your doctor.
Narrowband UVB Phototherapy
Narrowband UVB light therapy is a newer form of light treatment that is to be used two or three times a week until psoriasis improves. Then it is used once a week to maintain health of the skin. It should noted that this type of UVB ray can cause a severe burn if not used appropriately.
Photochemotherapy /Psoralen Plus Ultraviolet A (PUVA)
When undergoing photochemotherapy you will take a light-sensitizing medication (psoralen) before you are exposed to UVA light rays. The psoralen makes the skin more receptive to the UVA light. This treatment is used for more serious cases of psoriasis. It is done two to three times a week for a number of weeks prescribed by your doctor. Side effects can include headache, burning and itching and even nausea. Long-term side effects include dry skin, wrinkled skin, freckles and an increased risk of skin cancer (including melanoma).
Eximer laser is a specific wavelength of controlled UVB light that is shone directly on the patches of psoriasis. It is used to treat mild to moderate psoriasis and only affects the areas that are treated. This type of therapy requires fewer sessions than other forms of phototherapy because the UVB light is more powerful and exact. Side effects can include blistering and redness.
Combining Light Therapy With Topical Medications
Sometimes a doctor will recommend combining UVA and UVB light treatments with topical medications such as retinoids, coal tar ot anthralin-salicylic acid. When using a combination of certain topical treatments with UVA or UVB therapy, the skin can become more receptive to the phototherapy and effectiveness is improved. Combining UV light with other treatments such as retinoids frequently improves phototherapy's effectiveness.
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