Light Therapy for Psoriasis

Ultraviolet B (UVB) Phototherapy Therapy for Psoriasis

UVB is light with a short wavelength that is absorbed in the skin's epidermis. An artificial source can be used to treat mild or moderate psoriasis. Some physicians will start treating patients with UVB instead of topical agents. A UVB phototherapy, called broadband UVB, can be used to treat a few small lesions, to treat widespread psoriasis, or to treat lesions that resist topical therapy. This type of light therapy is normally given in a doctor's office by using a light panel or light box. Some patients use UVB light boxes at home under a doctor's guidance.
 
A newer type of UVB used as light therapy for psoriasis is called narrowband UVB. This type of psoriasis therapy emits the part of the ultraviolet light spectrum band that is most helpful for psoriasis. Narrowband UVB therapy is superior to broadband UVB, but it is less effective than PUVA therapy (see next paragraph). This type of light therapy for psoriasis is gaining in popularity because it does help and is more convenient than PUVA.
 
At first, patients may require several treatments of narrowband UVB spaced close together to improve their skin. Once the skin has shown improvement, a maintenance light therapy once each week may be all that is necessary. However, narrowband UVB light therapy for psoriasis is not without risk. It can cause more severe and longer-lasting burns than broadband psoriasis therapy.
 

Psoralen and Ultraviolet A Phototherapy (PUVA) Therapy for Psoriasis

This light therapy for psoriasis combines oral or topical administration of a medicine called psoralen with exposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) light. UVA has a long wavelength that penetrates deeper into the skin than UVB. Psoralen makes the skin more sensitive to this light. PUVA is normally used when more than 10 percent of the skin is affected or when the disease interferes with a person's occupation (for example, when a teacher's face or a salesperson's hands are involved).
 
Compared with broadband UVB light therapy for psoriasis, PUVA therapy taken two to three times a week clears psoriasis more consistently and in fewer sessions.
 
However, this type of light therapy is associated with more short-term side effects, including nausea, headache, fatigue, burning, and itching. Care must be taken to avoid sunlight after ingesting psoralen to avoid severe sunburns, and the eyes must be protected for one to two days with UVA-absorbing glasses. Long-term therapy is associated with an increased risk of squamous-cell and, possibly, melanoma skin cancers. Simultaneous use of drugs that suppress the immune system, such as cyclosporine, have little beneficial effect and increase the risk of cancer.
 

Information on Psoriasis

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