6 Things You Should Know About Light Therapy for Psoriasis
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For the first decade of living with my disease, I could only use topicals and light treatments, mainly because I was under the age of 18, and 20 years ago there weren’t many options for adolescents living with psoriasis.

Phototherapy for skin disorders dates back to thousands of years ago and is one of the oldest treatments for psoriasis. Although light treatment has been tested for multiple skin ailments, it was first documented for psoriasis in 1923 by scientist William H. Goeckerman.1

Light therapy has proved to promote positive results for those living with psoriasis, but for me, it did absolutely nothing. This treatment is usually reserved for those living with moderate to severe psoriasis. I was covered with plaques on 90% of my body, I did light therapy on and off from the time I was around 8 years old until my early 20’s. Most times I went for treatments at least 3 times a week sometimes more, but due to my severity, the doctor recommended at least 5 visits out of 7 days. Although at times it seemed like my plaques flattened out it didn’t have a long term impact. Natural sunlight is another option but in many areas across the U.S. Fall is near which means sunlight will be limited. Check out these 6 facts on light therapy.

How does it work?

Light treatment works to slow down the excessive skin cell growth by penetrating the skin. It works best when you are diligent and consistent with your treatments.

How often does treatment occur?

The doctor’s office I had to travel to was 35 minutes or so away from my home. This means in total it took anywhere from 15-20 hours out of my week (That’s basically a part-time job). This also means more gas and more miles for your car.

What are the risks?

Due to this extra exposure of sun rays, you put yourself at risk for skin cancer. Although all tones can get skin malignancies, it has been scientifically proven that the lighter your skin the more risk. Your doctor will work with you to ensure you receive phototherapy in the correct dosages to prevent cancer from occurring. Sun burning could also occur, but your medical team will work with your dosages to ensure this risk is low. If the light seems to be too much for your skin be sure to express this to your doctor. This is on the safer end of treatment options and has less risk compared to pills and biologics.

Tanning beds and UVB light… is it the same?

Many people chose a regular tanning bed which you can find at a salon as their source of light treatment for psoriasis. It is important to understand IT IS NOT THE SAME, and regular tanning beds can significantly increase one’s risk for skin cancer and should not be used on a consistent bases. Don’t believe me? Ask your dermatologist, they will most likely tell you the same thing.

How convenient is phototherapy?

Up until about 3 years ago or so you could only access light therapy by traveling to a doctor’s office, but now the FDA has approved several at home options. The older models of at home light therapy are big and bulky, but there are now smaller options such as the portable Clarify handheld UVB light. The disadvantages of these at home options are insurance companies are less likely to pay for them.

Can you use other treatments?

Your doctor may prescribe you topicals to use in conjunction with your light treatment such as coal tar or topical steroids.

view references
  1. Brodsky M, Abrouk M, Lee P, Kelly KM. Revisiting the History and Importance of Phototherapy in Dermatology. JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(5):435. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.0722
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