Sunlight has always been known to help heal many skin conditions. However, the risk of skin cancer with prolonged UV exposure makes it a less desirable approach. Over time, researchers have been able to create technology that mimics very specific wavelengths in order to harness the therapeutic light rays while eliminating the damaging ones.
What is phototherapy?
Narrowband phototherapy is a safe and effective treatment for many autoimmune diseases of the skin. In fact, in many situations it is considered a first-line treatment option for conditions such as psoriasis, vitiligo, and eczema. It is safe to use in pregnant women and in children, and it does not have any of the side effects associated with systemic medications or biologics.
How is phototherapy done?
Narrowband UV therapy, or light therapy, involves the coming to the office several times per week for a treatment session. Once in the office, you are escorted to a private room where you remove your clothes. Our assistants will help you to apply petrolatum to the affected areas, as this does increase the efficacy of the treatment. Our computer keeps track of your previous treatments, and creates a safe algorithm for your subsequent treatments. Once your skin condition has improved, typically treatment sessions are decreased. For example, most people begin by coming 3 times weekly. After several weeks they decrease to 2 times weekly, then once weekly, and eventually many people can stop coming or may only need to come once per month for a treatment.Unless your dermatologist recommends it, your face will not be treated. We will shield your face with with 100% UV protective eye wear. Please wear your own maximum UV protection eye also.
Patients must protect the genital area by wearing underwear. If you have active Psoriasis or Eczema on your buttocks, wear a G-string/Jock-strap or a sock for male patient. Please wear the same clothing each time.
Sometimes other areas of skin may be protected from exposure by wearing tightly woven clothing. It must cover the same area every visit.
Please put on moisturizer to your entire skin at home before coming for treatment. It increases the effectiveness of the treatment.
Does insurance cover these treatments?
Yes, insurance typically covers phototherapy treatments. Every insurance company is a little different, and individual plans may vary. Some people are responsible for a copay, while others are responsible for a larger amount as it is considered a procedure that goes toward the deductible. Typically, a pre-authorization is necessary before the procedure. Our office can talk to you about pricing.
Why does it work? No one really knows exactly. It seems to turn off the changes in the skin’s immune system that lead to the development of Psoriasis and Eczema.
Possible side effects:
1. Burning – usually this is mild and the device can be adjusted. Please do not go to the beach/stay out in the sun while being treated – severe burning may develop.
2. Rarely, development of a rash brought on by exposure to UVB (rare)
3. Cold sores- If you are susceptible and the area where they occur is exposed to the UVB, you may want to protect the area with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide containing sunscreens.
4. Dry skin. Moisturizing the skin regularly and reducing the use of soap in the shower reduces this dryness.
5. Darkening of skin. When the psoriasis or eczema improves, there is often a darkening of the skin where the original problem was. The darkening is temporary.
6. Long term changes: Premature aging of the skin, skin wrinkling, dilated capillaries (blood vessels), dryness, pigmentation changes and loss of elasticity of skin. NBUVB can contribute or add to an individual’s overall lifetime risk of developing skin cancer. This includes sunspots, non melanoma skin cancer (Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinomas) and perhaps Melanoma. Therefore regular skin checks with your dermatologist are important. Regular attendance for treatment is important to get the best results.