Phototherapy and You
What Is It?
Phototherapy is the use of specific segments of the ultraviolet light spectrum to treat psoriasis, vitiligo, atopic dermatitis (eczema), scleroderma (mycosis fungoides) and other skin disorders. The skin is exposed to the light delivered by a phototherapy unit. Hand-held and tabletop phototherapy units are used for spot treatment of skin areas or full cabinet units are used for patients requiring full body treatment. Exposure to the specialized light reduces or eliminates the symptoms of the skin disease.
Phototherapy is a desirable treatment option for many patients especially when compared to other alternatives. Exposure to ultraviolet light increases the risk of premature aging of the skin and certain kinds of skin cancer. You should ask your dermatologist to explain these risks to you. There are also certain agents and medications that can make you sensitive to light (photosensitivity). Please review the photosensitivity chart and discuss your medications with your physician.
There are three forms of phototherapy that have been widely used. They are Broad Band UVB, psoralen activated UVA (called PUVA), and a more recently innovated technology called Narrow Band UVB. PUVA therapy and Narrow Band UVB have proven to provide the most effective treatment in most cases. We have invested in the most advanced phototherapy technology for your health – and your quality of life!
However, PUVA, while highly effective, has been shown to lead to the possible development of melanomas and other skin cancers after prolonged use. Narrow Band UVB does not require the use of oral medications and the side effects specific to the use of psoralen drugs in PUVA therapy are therefore avoided. Narrow Band UVB is fast becoming the phototherapy option of choice by many dermatologists.
Phototherapy is effective in treating the symptoms of psoriasis, vitiligo, atopic dermatitis (eczema), scleroderma (mycosis fungoides), and other skin disorders. But, these skin disorders are chronic, genetic diseases and flare-ups tend to occur periodically throughout life. How long the clearing of symptoms will last after treatment varies from patient to patient.
Your physician determines if phototherapy is right for you. In general, phototherapy is for patients who suffer moderate to severe cases of the applicable skin disease.
Phototherapy is a painless treatment. You simply expose your skin to the treatment unit’s light. Your physician prescribes the form of ultraviolet light that is best for you, the frequency of treatment, and the duration of each light treatment. A succession of phototherapy treatments spread over a period of several weeks or even months is typical.
Most phototherapy is conducted in the physician’s office. While you will be under the care of your physician, a phototherapy technician or a nurse may administer your individual treatments. Your physician will want to see you periodically to monitor your progress. Home phototherapy units are available, but your physician must prescribe and guide any home self-treatment.
Ask your physician today if Phototherapy is right for you!