Phototherapy Treatment for Skin Conditions

How we harness the power of the sun to treat some skin disease.

Research shows sunlight can benefit some skin conditions. Doctors can now capture the healing properties of sunlight through artificial ultraviolet light.

Our dermatology team uses phototherapy to treat complex skin diseases such as:

What types of phototherapy are available?

Laser light technologies, fluorescent lamps, and full-spectrum bright lights can deliver phototherapy. The therapy may involve ultraviolet-A rays (UVA) or ultraviolet-B rays (UVB). These specialized light rays may be used in different wave forms and in combination with medicines to enhance the skin disease treatments.

  • Broadband or narrow-band UVB: Your doctor may deliver UVB in broadband light waves (three to four treatments per week) or narrow-band light waves (two to three treatments per week). Your dermatologist will determine your treatment schedule.
  • High-intensity UVB: A special laser called the Excimer delivers high-intensity UVB to individual lesions on the skin. This helps heal the lesion and spare the normal surrounding skin exposure to the UVB light. High-intensity UVB therapy requires two to three treatments a week.
  • PUVA: PUVA phototherapy uses the drug psoralen in combination with UVA light. You first take psoralen by mouth, as a skin ointment, or as a skin bath to make your skin more sensitive to the UVA light before the therapy. You may need up to 25 PUVA treatments over several months to achieve the best results for a serious, chronic skin disease such as psoriasis.

What should I do after phototherapy treatment?

As you recover, follow these recommendations:

  • Apply cool compresses for about 15 minutes every hour for the first six to 12 hours to prevent swelling.
  • Avoid excessive physical activity for two weeks after your procedure.
  • Avoid saunas, baths, or swimming pools for two weeks.
  • Avoid flying or car rides longer than 45 minutes for two weeks.
  • Drink plenty of water for the first few days.
  • Don’t peel, pick, scrape, or scratch the skin.
  • Keep the skin clean. Wash the area gently using a mild soap. Avoid using abrasives, exfoliating sponges or exfoliating masks on the treated areas.
  • Keep the treated area elevated for a few days.
  • Use analgesics such as Tylenol, Advil, or aspirin to control mild, lingering pain. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication for more severe pain.
  • Walk five to 10 minutes every hour while awake for the first few days to prevent a blood clot.
  • Wear compression stockings during the day for the first two weeks for best results.

Contact a nurse if you develop:

  • A temperature of 100 degrees or greater
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Possible infection
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