Although psoriasis may be worsened by direct sunlight in very few patients, in most cases, psoriasis symptoms benefit from natural sunlight making this one of the best home remedies for psoriasis and light therapy for psoriasis is a very popular treatment method.
There are three types of radiation associated with natural sunlight namely, ultraviolet (UV) radiation, infrared radiation and the visible light spectrum. The benefits for psoriasis come from the use of UV light waves of which there are three types – UVC, UVB and UVA.
The ozone layer blocks UVC rays and they do not reach the earth's surface. Light therapy for psoriasis usually uses UVA and/or UVB light rays. Sunburn is usually caused by exposure to UVB rays which also causes skin to change color as it does with a tan. UVB light rays when used to treat psoriasis can be used alone or with another treatment therapy.
UVA used for psoriasis therapy isn't usually effective when used alone but can be effective when used with psoralen (chemical that reacts with DNA when light is administered). Natural sunlight or artificial light can be used during therapy.
Cases When Light Therapy Is Not Recommended
- When there is a past history of skin cancer especially the most severe kind which is melanoma as this light therapy for psoriasis may increase your risk of developing new cancers.
- If the patient has a disease that increases sensitivity to light.
- If the patient takes certain medications that increase sensitivity to light.
Before commencing light therapy for psoriasis, determining how your skin will react to UV rays is important. You also need to inform your doctor of any medications or health problems you may have.
When used over long periods of time, light therapy may increase the overall risk of developing skin cancers and regular skin examinations are required when a patient has regular light therapy treatments. If the patient also notices any areas that refuse to heal or that feature new growths, informing his or her doctor is important.
Exposure to light over a prolonged period also increases the risk of premature aging of the skin especially when UVA in combination with psoralen is used. It has also been linked to the development of cutaneous melanoma, a serious skin cancer type but the instances where this occurs are quite rare but it is still important to remain vigilant when using light therapy for psoriasis.
Before beginning light therapy for psoriasis, a doctor usually tests the skin using a number of methods. One of the methods used to determine the skin's response to light breaks down skin types based on whether it tans or burns when exposed to light. Another method to determine how much light to administer to the skin involves testing small skin areas to determine how much light therapy they can withstand.
Light Therapy For Psoriasis Using UVB
UVB light rays are very effective at treating psoriasis when used alone or in combination with other therapies. The UVB dosage will be determined by the doctor based on the skin's reaction to light. The starting point is usually exposure for just a few seconds which gradually builds up until the skin is cleared of the various symptoms of psoriasis.
The following are a few precautions to take when using UVB light therapy for psoriasis;
- Avoid using tanning beds
- Use sunscreen on sensitive areas such as the lips and nipples
- Male patients need to shield their private parts during treatment
- Use sunscreen (at least SPF 30) or cover up when outdoors especially on days when the treatment is administered.
Using UVB at Home
If you wish to use this therapy at home, it is important to meet with your dermatologist first to determine what treatment is appropriate to you. You can purchase the required equipment anywhere in the country. When you are determined to be a suitable candidate for home therapy, your doctor will provide the necessary light panels prescription. Keep in mind that the light units are very expensive.
Most doctors are reluctant however to prescribe this when they cannot monitor the treatment which makes instances when UVB treatment therapy is used at home quite rare. It is usually prescribed to those that live very far from a treatment center. When using this therapy at home, is important to carefully monitor the exposure to light and use the proper dosage to prevent burning.
Psoralen plus UVA (PUVA) Light Therapy For Psoriasis
Sometimes PUVA is the only light therapy for psoriasis that works for a sufferer but it is important to follow the doctor's instructions to the letter. When used alone, UVA is not very effective at treating psoriasis but when combined with psoralen, the effectiveness of the treatment is greatly improved. Psolaren makes the skin more sensitive to UV light which then improves the effectiveness of UVA light when treating the symptoms of psoriasis. Psoralen can be taken orally, with a psoralen bath or administered directly on the lesions as determined by the doctor. Orally taking psoralen can lead to nausea however.
If you have a history of skin cancers, suffer from certain diseases such as systematic lupus erythematosus, are pregnant or nursing, have an adverse reaction to psoralen, use medication that increases sensitivity to light or prior x-ray treatment, the doctor will usually not recommend PUVA therapy.
When this treatment is being administered, the eyes, nipples, genitals and lips must remain covered. The doctor usually records the amount of PUVA that is administered and tries to keep it below a certain amount. Six to ten treatments is the time it usually takes before a patient starts to notice the effects of PUVA with the lesions clearing after twenty to thirty PUVA treatments.
For both UVB and PUVA therapy, combination with other oral or topical treatments can lead to greater results.
This is just a little bit of information about using light therapy for psoriasis which is considered one of the ways to treat the symptoms of psoriasis effectively. Discuss with your doctor which light therapy will work for you depending on how your skin responds to light.