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Reasons for Procedure
- Psoriasis—a skin disorder that causes red, silvery, scaly patches on the skin
- Atopic dermatitis—eczema, an itchy, red skin condition, or dermatitis due to allergies
- Mycosis fungoides—a type of lymphoma confined to the skin
- Vitiligo—a skin disorder where normal skin pigment is lost due to destruction of pigment-producing cells by the immune system
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- Skin conditions could temporarily worsen
- Itchy skin
- Red skin due to exposure to the lights
- Burning of the skin
- Burning skin
- Cataracts —lens of eye becomes cloudy, affecting vision
- Premature aging of the skin, such as wrinkling and dryness
- Age spots or freckles
- Allergy to sunlight
- Pregnancy or nursing
- Medical conditions, such as skin cancer or lupus, that require you to avoid the sun
- History of skin cancer
- Liver disease—phototherapy may increase medication levels in the blood
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
- Sunscreen to protect your neck, lips, and the backs of your hands
- Special glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from UV light
- Cover for genitals in men
- Sunscreen for nipples and areola in women
Description of the Procedure
- Broad band UVB—Uses UV light, type B. It cannot be used in areas where there are skin folds.
- Narrow band UVB (nbUVB)—Uses a narrower range of UVB wavelengths. It can reach more specific areas, even skin folds.
- PUVA—This UVA light treatment includes a medication called psoralen that is taken before treatment. It makes your skin more sensitive to the light. Psoralen can be taken as a pill or applied to the skin.
- Lasers—An excimer laser emits a UV light. It can be directed at specific areas of the skin.
How Long Will It Take?
- Broad band therapy requires approximately 3-5 treatments each week.
- Narrow band therapy requires 2-3 treatments each week.
- PUVA treatments generally require about 25 treatments over a 2-3 month period.
- Laser treatments are usually given twice a week and fewer sessions are required to clear the skin.
Will It Hurt?
- Clothing and sunscreen should be used when outdoors. They will help you avoid overexposure to UV light.
- There is an increased risk of sunburn after PUVA treatment. This is due to increased sensitivity from the psoralen.
- It is important to protect your eyes from sunlight exposure for the next 24 hours. This will help you to avoid cataractsafter PUVA treatment.
- Antihistamines and other medication may be given to ease the itching.
Call Your Doctor
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness around the skin lesions or any discharge
- Severe skin burning, pain, or blistering
- Side effects you experienced due to the treatment continue or worsen
- Development of new symptoms
American Academy of Dermatology http://www.aad.org
National Psoriasis Foundation http://www.psoriasis.org
Eczema Canada http://www.eczemacanada.ca
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Gambichler T, Breuckmann F, et al. 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%5Fdiseases/phototherapy%5Fuvb.html. Accessed November 21, 2013.
Phototherapy. National Psoriasis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/treatments/phototherapy. Accessed November 21, 2013.
Psoriasis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 14, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2013.
UVA Photo(chemo)therapy. Derm Net AZ website. Available at: http://www.dermnetnz.org/doctors/phototherapy/uva.html. Accessed November 21, 2013.
What happened to phototherapy. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/dw/monthly/2012/psoriasis/what-happened-to-phototherapy. Published August 1, 2012. Accessed November 21, 2013.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 11/2013
- Update Date: 11/21/2013