Pros and Cons of Various Phototherapy Treatments for Psoriasis

Psoriasis can be treated in a number of ways including topical creams and phototherapy. Typically, doctors will prescribe topical creams at first but, if the medications are not improving symptoms adequately, they might recommend light therapy for psoriasis treatment.

Phototherapy is available through a number of different methods including:

Sunlight

The most basis phototherapy treatment for psoriasis is sunlight. A reasonable amount of sunlight can improve psoriasis symptoms. Don't take this to mean that you should lie outside all day without sunscreen just burning in the sun. Doctors will typically recommend 20 minutes of sun exposure a day.

Psoralen plus Ultraviolet A (PUVA)

This form of phototherapy uses UVA light in combination with psoralen, a topical cream or oral medication that increases skin sensitivity to light. Because both medication and light are used during PUVA, the treatment if often referred to as photochemotherapy. PUVA has been highly efficient at treating serious psoriasis.

PUVA, while effective at treating psoriasis, can have some side effects including headaches, exhaustion, nausea, itching, and burning. It has also been linked to an increase risk of skin cancer, making doctors hesitant to use this treatment unless the situation is serious enough to warrant it. After psoralen is applied, it is essential to use sunglasses for at least 12 hours after the treatment is performed to protect your more sensitive eyes.

UVB

During UVB phototherapy treatment, UVB rays are used to target psoriasis plaques. Typically, these treatments are performed in the doctor's office although there are machines available for the phototherapy to take place at home. Doctors will often recommend three to five sessions of phototherapy a week for between two to three months.

There are several types of UV B therapy. These include the Goeckerman regimen, the Ingram regimen, as well as narrow band UVB. The side effects of UVB therapy are typically less significant than those of PUVA.

Laser Therapy

Lasers, one of the newest forms of phototherapy, utilize narrow bands of light to target psoriasis. A definite advantage to laser therapy is that it can be used to target a specific area of the skin instead of exposing large areas to light. This serves to reduce negative side effects including elevated skin cancer risks. Because they are more targeted than other treatments, laser therapy typically requires fewer treatment sessions.

Laser phototherapy causes few negative side effects although some patients have reported a burning sensation after treatment. Some individuals may also experience some scarring and bruising following laser therapy.