Light Treatment is Changing
Last updated: March 2021
When I was growing up with psoriasis the only things available to me as a child were topical treatments and light therapy.
My psoriasis was so severe my doctor recommended I do light treatment at least 6 days a week. For years, most days after school my grandmother would fight hours of traffic to take me the doctor's office around 30 miles away from where I lived (sometimes further depending on the doctor) for me to receive anywhere from 30 secs to 9 mins of UVB light.
We did this on and off for years, without much relief for my skin. I suppose we kept doing it hoping that maybe one-day psoriasis would give in and slow down, but for me it never happened. Without insurance light therapy was around $150 each session no matter how short the time, costing around $900 a week.
On top of medical expenses, there were also others such as gas. The time it took to travel to and from the doctor's office were also huge factors. In total my grandmother drove around 60 miles in one day each time I had to receive treatment.
Advances in light therapy
While light therapy didn't work for me, it is an effective option for others, but many complain of the inconvenience this type of therapy has to offer. The good news is there are now more convenient options for phototherapy. Last year at the National Psoriasis Foundation Volunteer Conference I had the opportunity to speak with Nicole Keefer a Registered Nurse and Care Partner for Clarify Medical.
In the fall of 2017, Clarify Medical released a handheld UVB light treatment which can be used at home, "It is cleared by the FDA for home use. It enables people with chronic illness like psoriasis to do their treatments at home versus a doctor's office..." shares Nicole. The device is like the size of an average TV remote and can fit inside a medium-sized purse or gym bag. The light is used as a spot treatment, so it doesn't require one to stand in a booth, "It reduces the risk of being burnt because you can place it right on your skin," says Nicole.
The doctor has to prescribe the treatment and it can be used up to 3 times a week. A feature I found pretty neat is the device will not work if you try to use it outside of the allotted times prescribed, Nicole explains, "It's the first smartphone device out there.
It has mechanisms built in that once a prescriber [Physician] puts the prescription in the device controls it. So, you give your prescribed dose that day in the spots you are supposed to do it in, and then the device turns off." The device is priced under a thousand dollars. For the full interview click here.
Is light treatment right for me?
This treatment isn't designed for people with a large coverage of psoriasis but may be effective for those who have mild to moderate form of the disease. Daavlin another company that has phototherapy devices, currently has options for mild to more severe forms of psoriasis.
I have the honor of working alongside of Joel M. Gelfand, MD MSCE, a professor of Dermatology and Epidemiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at Penn University on research of light therapy being conducted at home versus a doctor's office.
There is not much data comparing the two. The hope is to figure out which method provides better patient outcomes for disease improvement.
Have you used light therapy (phototherapy)? What was your experience using it as a treatment option? If given the option would you use light therapy at home?
Does your psoriasis management change with the seasons?