One of the most popular psoriasis treatment options is phototherapy, also known as light therapy,which uses ultraviolet light in treating skin lesions. It is appropriate for mild or moderate psoriasis that covers vast expanses of skin. Phototherapy is a long-term psoriasis treatment that takes place over the course of a few months; any lapse in light therapy sessions before remission is achieved may be ineffective.
Sessions usually continue until the patient’s skin is completely clear. In order to ensure the success of the entire treatment, only a qualified and professional health care provider is tasked to administer it. Light therapy can be time-consuming and expensive, so it may not be a viable treatment for all psoriasis patients.
PUVA for Psoriasis: Treating Psoriasis with Ultraviolet Light A (UVA)
UVA can be effective in treating psoriasis when utilized in combination with a drug known as psoralen. This treatment option is called PUVA. Psoralen induces photosensitivity in the skin, after which the patient is exposed to UVA rays from lamps.
PUVA is often used for widespread psoriasis. It prevents the synthesis of the DNA and suppresses the immune system to decrease the severity of psoriasis symptoms.
PUVA treatments can be expensive and inconvenient. The side effects include nausea an increased risk for skin cancer. Pregnant women and children under the age of 12 are not advised to undergo PUVA.
UVB Light Therapy for Psoriasis: Treating Psoriasis with Ultraviolet Light B (UVB)
This treatment option can be separated into broadband UVB and narrowband UVB.
Broadband ultraviolet light B can be acquired directly from sunlight. Many psoriasis sufferers choose to self-treat their symptoms by tanning in natural sunlight. The results vary in effectiveness from person to person.
Narrowband is considered more effective for psoriasis, and this is the type that hospitals utilize. Medical grade narrowband UVB lamps can also be purchased for home use, but they are extremely expensive and often cost thousands of dollars. Costs for replacement bulbs are also steep.
The risks for UVB exposure include premature aging of the skin and an increased chance of skin cancer with long-term use.
Phototherapy or Alternative Treatments for Psoriasis?
While phototherapy may be effective for a portion of psoriasis sufferers, the cost and time needed for this treatment to achieve results may turn others away. It is up to the patient to make the choice that is right for him. Due to the chronic and unpredictable nature of the disease, psoriasis symptoms may return after light therapy sessions stop.
Also, the side effects and eventual risk of skin cancer may not make it an ideal long-term treatment. In addition, a small portion of psoriasis sufferers’ symptoms may worsen when exposed to UV light-light therapy is not a viable option in this case.