Phototherapy is a minimally invasive treatment which has been shown to be safe and effective for many skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema/atopic dermatitis, vitiligo, etc. Phototherapy exposes the affected skin to ultraviolet light, which has been shown to help these and other conditions.
At Carlsbad and Vista Dermatology, we offer phototherapy in the form of narrow band UVB (NB-UVB). Our phototherapy unit is controlled by "Smart Touch" technology, which provides additional safety mechanism for our patients.
Below are some questions and answers regarding phototherapy treatment:
What is ultraviolet (UV) light therapy?
Light is divided into different categories based on the wavelength. Sunlight is comprised of several categories, and ultraviolet light (UV) is one of these categories. UV is further divided into UV A, B, and C. It is thought that only 4% of the sun's rays help to improve skin disease. Narrow band UVB (NB-UVB) only uses the optimal part of the UV spectrum to treat skin diseases, and minimizes risks resulting from the other spectra of UV light.
What type of skin conditions may respond to narrow band UVB (NB-UVB) therapy?
There are many skin conditions which may respond to NB-UVB. The most common conditions which we treat using NB-UVB are psoriasis and eczema/atopic dermatitis. Many other conditions (including vitiligo, polymorphous light eruption, cutaneous lymphoma) can also benefit from treatment with NB-UVB.
How does narrow band UVB (NV-UVB) work?
The precise mechanism of how NB-UVB treats many skin conditions is not known. However, many studies have shown that it may lower the activity of the immune system and inflammation. Many of the disorders for which it is effective are thought to be caused by an "over-active" immune reaction.
What is a course of treatment like?
Each treatment consists of updating your history and talking about any side effects from the previous session. The patient then stands in a light box lined with NB-UVB light bulbs for seconds to minutes, depending on his/her treatment plan. Our patients typically receive light treatments 2-3 times a week when their skin disease is active. For most of the skin disorders mentioned above, including psoriasis and eczema, improvement is seen in just a few weeks. For vitiligo, response typically takes longer, sometimes several months for significant improvement. After the condition improves, then we move into the maintenance phases whereby the frequency of visits decreases gradually. And when the skin disorder is in remission, then we would wean the patient off of phototherapy.
What are some of the risks?
Side effects of NB-UVB can include (but are not limited to): a sunburn-like reaction. Long term risks are the same as chronic sun exposure. The risks of skin cancer is undetermined, but studies show that it is relatively safe at the low doses used for treatment.
Are there any precautions to take?
Our patients MUST wear eye protection during treatment (we will provide). Our male patients MUST protect the genitalia during treatment with either underwear or a towel. Please update our staff at each visit with any changes in medications, as some can cause photosensitivity. Any side effects including redness or burning MUST be reported at each visit. We discourage patients from sun-tanning after their treatments.
Are treatments covered by insurance?
While most insurance companies cover light treatments, the patient will ultimately be responsible for any portion not covered by his/her insurance.