Phototherapy uses lightwaves to treat certain skin conditions. The skin is exposed to an ultraviolet (UV) light for a set amount of time. Phototherapy uses a man-made source of UV light but UV light also comes from the sun.
UV light shuts down immune system cells in the skin. It can help in skin conditions that are caused by an overreaction of the immune system. Skin conditions that are treated with phototherapy include:
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The UV lights may negatively affect your skin in a number of ways, including:
PUVA treatment may also cause:
If you have received a great number of phototherapy treatments, you may be at risk for:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
You will be asked to remove any clothes that cover the skin being treated. Areas that do not need treatment should be covered and protected as much as possible. Some safety steps include:
Make sure to inform your doctor about any medicine that you are currently taking. Some medicines, including over-the-counter medicine, can increase the risk of side effects.
Types of phototherapy include:
Treatment over a large area may be treated in a treatment unit. You can stand in this unit during treatment. Smaller areas may be treated with smaller units. A laser treatment will use a laser light that is focused on the specific area.
The first treatment is usually very short, even a few seconds. Your phototherapy sessions will vary in length. It will depend on your skin type and the strength of the light chosen by your doctor. Treatments rarely last longer than a few minutes.
Treatment for skin conditions generally requires several treatments each week. The length of treatment will depend the type of phototherapy:
Treatments will continue until your skin is clear. Sometimes, occasional maintenance treatments are needed. The maintenance sessions can usually be done right in your doctor’s office, or even with a home UV light unit.
You may feel a warm sensation on your skin, similar to a mild sunburn. Your doctor can recommend medication if you have discomfort after treatment.
It is important to avoid natural sunlight when you are receiving UV light treatment:
Your doctor should regularly examine your skin for skin cancer. UV light exposure from sunlight causes skin cancer. Long term PUVA treatment can also increase the risk of skin cancer. No studies have found a direct link from nb UVB phototherapy to skin cancer.
Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Academy of Dermatology
National Psoriasis Foundation
Gambichler T, Breuckmann F, Boms S, Altmeyer P, Kreuter A. Narrowband UVB phototherapy in skin conditions beyond psoriasis. J Am Acad Dermatol . 2005;52(4):660-670. Review.
Muekusch G, Pitman J, Smiljanic D. Photoresponsive diseases. Dermatol Nurs . 2007;19(1):43-47.
Phototherapy. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aocd.org/skin/dermatologic_diseases/phototherapy_uvb.html . Accessed December 7, 2012.
Phototherapy. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/public/News/NewsReleases/Psoriasis_Current+Treatments.htm . Accessed August 23, 2005.
Phototherapy: lasers. National Psoriasis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.psoriasis.org/treatment/psoriasis/phototherapy/lasers.php . Accessed August 23, 2005.
Phototherapy: PUVA. National Psoriasis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.psoriasis.org/treatment/psoriasis/phototherapy/puva.php . Accessed August 23, 2005.
Phototherapy: Tips for your protection and comfort. National Psoriasis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.psoriasis.org/treatment/psoriasis/phototherapy/tips.php . Accessed August 23, 2005.
Phototherapy: UVB phototherapy. National Psoriasis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.psoriasis.org/treatment/psoriasis/phototherapy/uvb.php . Accessed August 23, 2005.
Psoriasis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated October 26, 2012. Accessed December 7, 2012.
UVA Photo(chemo)therapy. Derm Net AZ website. Available at: http://www.dermnetnz.org/doctors/phototherapy/uva.html . Accessed December 7, 2012.
Last reviewed November 2012 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2012 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.
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