What is phototherapy?
Light therapy as it’s commonly known or Phototherapy which is its medical name, is a process of exposing the skin to UV light which suppresses overactive skin immune system cells that cause inflammation. The sun’s rays can help eczema but you cannot control that very well.
Too little sun and you won’t benefit and too much and you can burn and cause more harm than good. Your doctor may suggest light therapy if you have severe flare-ups that your usual treatment – like moisturizers and anti-inflammatory medical creams – doesn’t help enough. It can completely clear many skin problems, but it’s not usually a permanent cure and you may need more treatments.
Phototherapy is a safer and more controlled way to expose your skin to UV light. There are a couple of different types of treatments using Phototherapy, The first is narrowband ultraviolet B (UVB) light. This uses a special machine to emit UVB light, which is the best part of natural sunlight for helping eczema.
The others are Broadband UVB phototherapy, PUVA (Psoralen and UVA), and UVA1 are other forms of phototherapy that may be used in special circumstances to treat eczema.
You’ll usually have treatment as an outpatient in the hospital’s phototherapy unit, which may be in the dermatology or physiotherapy department.
- UVA phototherapy. Stands for type A ultraviolet light. UVA is also found in natural sunlight but acts differently on the skin than UVB. For UVA eczema light therapy to work effectively, an oral medication, psoralen, must be taken an hour prior to the treatment to make the skin more respective to the light therapy. This combination of psoralen and UVA is called PUVA phototherapy. PUVA eczema treatments are given two to three times per week for 12 to 15 weeks. As with UVB, the length of exposure is increased gradually, and weekly maintenance treatments may be given after the first phase of treatment. Some people are unable to tolerate PUVA because of nausea from psoralen.
- Narrowband UVB phototherapy. “Narrowband UVB is gradually replacing both broadband UVB and PUVA,” says Page. “It is as effective as other types of eczema phototherapy and has fewer side effects because you don’t need to take a pill. Narrowband UVB uses a very small part of the UVB spectrum, which cuts down on exposure to UV radiation.” Because eczema treatments can be given more safely, narrowband UVB may be more effective and require a shorter course of treatment.
- Broadband UVB phototherapy. UVB stands for type B ultraviolet light, which has been used to treat skin conditions since the 1920s. Eczema treatment involves standing in a lightbox three times per week for a total course of 20 to 30 treatments. The length of each treatment increases until the skin becomes slightly pink. After the first phase of treatment, weekly maintenance treatments may be given.
Why have Light therapy?
The main reasons to have Light therapy for eczema are:
- To reduce itchiness
- Reduce inflammation
- Increase vitamin D
- Increase Good bacteria to help fight infections
- It produces fewer side effects that prescribed medications
You will see an improvement over the whole body rather than just being concentrated in one area of sufferers will see a dramatic improvement after using Phototherapy. You may also see the benefits long after the treatment has finished.
What will happen when I go for Light Therapy?
- You will be asked to undress and wear some protective goggles.
- Your skin will be moisturized-Oiled to help the skin react to the UV better.
- You will stand in front of a Light machine or lay inside one. It will not hurt and it’s a very short process.
- You will need to attend 2-3 appointments each week and the sessions start will a very short exposure to the UV normally only seconds.
- Each time you visit the length of the exposure will increase.
- The total number of visits can vary depending on how responsive your body is to the treatment. But from my experience 20 visits are a good starting point
- Your skin’s response is carefully measured and recorded. This will determine how many sessions you will need.
- If successful, some patients may restart the cycle or simply come once or twice weekly to maintain their improvement
- When it does work, it is not a rapid improvement like some treatments: generally, 1-2 months of steady treatment is necessary to start to see improvement.
Some Hospitals have portable Light therapy systems to help people who are homebound or unable to attend hospitals. Contact your local hospital or council for more information.
What are the side effects of Light therapy?
There are more positives than negatives from Light therapy or Phototherapy, However, like most medical interventions there can be some side effects.
- Eyestrain or visual disturbances.
- Agitation or feeling “wired.”
- Redness and temporary itchiness USE BODY WRAPS TO HELP STOP ITCHING.
- Cold sores
- Long-term exposure to the treatment can cause Thickening of the skin
- After treatment, you are more susceptible to burning from exposure to the sun
After Light therapy, make sure you follow your normal eczema creaming routine, below are some lotions recommended by some of our readers.
Does light therapy work for eczema?
UV Light Therapy sounds like a miracle cure, right? Well, there are always drawbacks. Phototherapy requires regular trips to the doctor’s office for the treatment, which can be hugely inconvenient for some. If you have very sensitive skin, you might get something similar to a sunburn if you are exposed to the light for too long.
Other skin damage, like sunspots, can also occur. The light has been known to cause headaches and nausea in certain people. Finally, there is the danger of skin cancer. This risk is minimal, as your exposure to the UV light would not be excessive, but the risk is still there.
Please remember the benefits are much better than the POSSIBLE side effects. Some people suffer no side effects from the treatment.UV Light therapy can be a remarkably useful tool for eczema treatment and we fully recommend that you give it a try.
Well, there are always drawbacks. Phototherapy requires regular trips to the doctor’s office for the treatment, which can be hugely inconvenient for some. If you have very sensitive skin, you might get something similar to a sunburn if you are exposed to the light for too long. Other skin damage, like sunspots, can also occur.
The light has been known to cause headaches and nausea in certain people. Finally, there is the danger of skin cancer. This risk is minimal, as your exposure to the UV light would not be excessive, but the risk is still there.
We here at our eczema story wish you well with Light Therapy treatment and any other treatments you use to control your eczema. We say control because the reality of Eczema is, there is no known cure for eczema yet. Medical science is progressing and funding for eczema studies has never been better. There are currently more than 40 studies being carried out right now.
Read our blog called: Latest eczema research 2017-2018-A ray of hope for eczema sufferers.