The Many Ways Phototherapy Treats Psoriasis
Phototherapy is a common treatment for psoriasis that involves exposing affected skin to specific wavelengths of ultraviolet light under medical supervision either in a clinic or at home. Phototherapy must be done consistently as directed by the doctor to be successful. The following looks at the various phototherapy treatments available to treat psoriasis.
UVB Phototherapy Treatment from Your Certified Dermatologist:
Narrow and broad-band ultraviolet B rays can effectively slow the growth of affected skin cells and improve psoriasis symptoms. UVB rays are present in natural sunlight. Your doctor may also prescribe an artificial UVB light source that you can use at home according to specified schedule. It is not uncommon for patients to experience a temporary worsening of their psoriasis symptoms when first starting UVB therapy. If your skin starts to redden and itch, the doctor may reduce your prescribed exposure time.
UVA with Psoralen Phototherapy:
UVA rays, also found in sunlight, are ineffective in treating psoriasis unless they are used in combination with a light-sensitizing agent called psoralen. When used together, UVA and psoralen can slow down skin cell growth and lead to a remission of psoriasis symptoms. This form of phototherapy can cause temporary side effects, including itching, skin redness, and nausea. Taking the psoralen with food, milk, or ginger ale may help prevent nausea. Colloidal oatmeal baths, antihistamines, and topical anti-itch creams may help with the itching.
Excimer and pulsed dye lasers have been approved for the treatment of mild to moderate localized plaque psoriasis. These lasers emit high-intensity beams of UVB light. It normally takes multiple treatments for patients to see improvement, and it is unclear how long improvements will last following therapy.
Natural Sunlight to Treat Psoriasis:
Multiple, short exposures to natural sunlight can help alleviate psoriasis symptoms. You should start by getting five to 10 minutes of midday sun on a daily basis. You should ensure that all affected areas get equal exposure, and protect unaffected areas with sunscreen.
A Word About Tanning Beds:
Many patients with psoriasis use tanning beds as an alternative to natural sunlight or doctor supervised phototherapy. The National Psoriasis Foundation does not support this practice. Tanning beds primarily emit UVA light, which is not effective in treating psoriasis without the addition of a photosensitizing agent. Indoor tanning also raises the risk of skin cancer and premature aging and should not be considered a substitute for doctor prescribed and administered phototherapy.
Interested in learning more about effective psoriasis treatments performed by our certified dermatologists? Contact us today to schedule a consultation!