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Phototherapy involves exposure to specific wavelengths of artificial ultraviolet light, which may be ultraviolet B (UVB), ultraviolet A (UVA), or a combination of the two. Phototherapy may be effective for older children and adults with mild to moderate eczema. More severe eczema can be treated with UVA in combination with a medication called psoralen. Psoralen is an oral or topical medication that makes the body more sensitive to light. This treatment is known as PUVA.

Phototherapy treatments are usually given several times per week for one or several months. It is generally done at a clinic or in your doctor's office with a specialized light panel or light box. In some cases, you may be able to use a recommended light box or light panel in your home with your doctor’s guidance.

Possible long-term side effects of phototherapy include premature aging of your skin and skin cancer , especially with PUVA.

Other Medications

If other treatments fail to improve eczema, a number of other medications may be tried. Each of these has specific risks and benefits. Discuss them with your doctor. Examples of such medications include:

  • Cyclosporine
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin
  • Mycophenolate Mofetil
  • Alitretinoin

Dietary Changes

Your doctor may advise you to make dietary changes. These may include avoiding possible triggers or irritants. Dietary changes may also involve taking supplements.


If you or your child is suffering from eczema, you may want to seek counseling and support groups and services. There are many professionals and organizations that can provide help and support in coping with the stresses of eczema.


Atopic dermatitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated June 1, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.

Correale CE, Walker C, et al. Atopic dermatitis: a review of diagnosis and treatment. Am Fam Physician. Sep 1999;60. Available at: Accessed November 21, 2013.

Krutmann J. Phototherapy for atopic dermatitis. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2000;25(7):552-558.

Lamb SR, Rademaker M. Pharmacoeconomics of drug therapy for atopic dermatitis. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2002;3(3):249-255.

Meduri NB, Vandergriff T, et al. Phototherapy in the management of atopic dermatitis: a systematic review. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2007 Aug;23(4):106-112.

Sand M, Bechara FG, et al. Extracorporeal photopheresis as a treatment for patients with severe, refractory atopic dermatitis. Dermatology. 2007;215(2):134-138.

Schmitt J, Schäkel K, et al. Systemic treatment of severe atopic eczema: a systematic review. Acta Derm Venereol. 2007;87(2):100-111.

Last reviewed December 2014 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.

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