Phototherapy or light therapy involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light on a regular basis and under medical supervision. Treatments are done in a doctor’s office or at home with phototherapy unit. The key to success with light therapy is consistency. Phototherapy is used to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, vitiligo, and eczema. There are several forms of treatment PUVA, narrowband UVB, and Excimer laser.
PUVA therapy uses a combination of plant-derived chemicals (Psoralen) and UVA light to treat disorders such as psoriasis, vitiligo, and eczema. The combination of psoralen and UVA light that is utilized in PUVA therapy causes skin cells to divide less rapidly. This is an effective treatment for these skin disorders because part of the pathogenic process of these disorders is an increase in the rate of cell division. By reducing the rate of cell division, symptoms of skin disorders are eased, and progression can be slowed down.
During PUVA therapy a patient can be exposed to ultraviolet light in one of two ways, depending on the type of skin condition he or she has. If the skin condition affects the hands and feet only, the patient is treated with a topical psoralen cream that is applied to those specific areas. The patient then sits in a chair and places his or her hands and feet in small UVA light boxes. If the skin condition affects other parts of the body, the patient is given oral psoralens and is treated with UVA light by sitting inside a large light box that allows full-body exposure.
Narrow Band UVB emits the part of the ultraviolet light spectrum band that is most helpful for psoriasis. It 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 treatment once each week may be all that is necessary.
Excimer laser is specially designed to produce ultraviolet radiation at a very specific wavelength. This wavelength of ultraviolet light is highly effective at treating psoriasis. Excimer laser gives us the benefits of focusing and targeting small treatment areas typically ascribed to laser treatments (for example, a particularly stubborn plaque of psoriasis on the elbow or knee). Individual response to the treatment varies. It can take an average of four to 10 sessions to see results, depending on the particular case of psoriasis. It is recommended that patients receive two treatments per week, with a minimum of 48 hours between treatments.
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