The effects of phototherapy treatment for Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a skin disease which is typically characterised by patches of abnormal skin. These patches on the skin may be itchy, red and scaly. Psoriasis, when it occurs, lasts for a long time. It is also said to be an autoimmune disorder, where the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells. Injury and trauma to the skin may trigger psoriasis. This psoriatic skin disorder is generally considered a genetic one which is triggered by environmental factors.
What is phototherapy or light therapy for psoriasis?
Phototherapy treatment means exposing the skin to ultraviolet rays or light on a regular basis as per the advice of a medical doctor. This is done only under medical supervision and guidance. It is suggested as a possible treatment for psoriasis when all other topical creams and medications applied externally is not producing the desired effect.
Under light therapy or photo therapy the affected area is subjected to UV rays from sun, lasers or artificial lamps. This could slow down the skin-cell growth and reduce the symptoms related to psoriasis.
The variations in photo therapy:
- Ultraviolet light B or UVB
- PUVA or Psoralen in combination with UVA
- Laser treatment
This is a very natural and simple way to remedy psoriasis. When a doctor recommends taking a sun bath for psoriatic conditions, it only means to get a good amount of sun for sometime every day. It does not mean exposing yourself to harmful radiation from the sun all day long. Though, this suggestion may work for mild psoriasis, one has to exercise discretion and typically apply an effective sunscreen with SPF 30 or more and zinc oxide on the other areas of exposed skin which are not affected by psoriasis.
Ultraviolet light B or UVB
Though these rays are available in plenty when the sun is at its peak in noon time, it is not an advisable option because of the other side effects of continuous sun exposure. It is therefore, administered in a medical facility or at home. When the skin is affected with psoriasis, the UVB rays penetrate the skin and slows down the growth of cells in the affected area.
The treatment should be given only as per the doctor’s suggestion, because it involves UVB rays penetrating the affected area for a prescribed length of time and also involves a regular schedule. This treatment is usually suggested in combination with another therapy. These are of two types and they are:
Goeckerman regimen: Here UVB treatment is given in combination with topical creams which have coal tar as an important ingredient.
Ingram regimen: This treatment is a combination of UVB photo therapy with an anthralin- salicylic acid paste.
This treatment pairs off a drug called Psoralen with UVA rays from artificial lamps. The medicine psoralen is taken as a pill or applied as a cream on the infected areas. This treatment is also known as photochemotherapy and is recommended only in severe cases.
This treatment has some side effects which include extra sensitiveness to light, burning and itching, nausea, exhaustion and headaches. It is essential to protect the skin and eyes by applying sunscreen 24 hours before treatment and sun glasses which completely block out UVA rays. Because of all these side effects, it is recommended to follow strict medical advice.
The excimer laser light used focuses only on affected psoriatic patches and not on healthy skin. This treatment is considered relatively safe and fast in healing when compared to the other techniques. The side effects are also comparatively mild. It may involve some pain, bruises and scarring. Sunlight and injury to the affected area should be avoided after treatment.
Some Precautions when following phototherapy
- Avoid continuous exposure to sun, when you are following photo therapy.
- Use sunscreen and wear clothing that covers non affected areas during photo therapy sessions.
- Check your sensitivity to medicines and foods, during treatment and follow medical advice.
- Go for periodic skin check-ups.