Patients suffering from a range of skin conditions including acne, dermatitis, and vitiligo are often surprised to learn that phototherapy can be an effective and non-invasive treatment option. This versatile treatment option uses light to help relieve many conditions, particularly those caused by excessive immune reactions.
What is Phototherapy?
Phototherapy is the strategic use of UV light to treat a variety of skin conditions. The treatment is performed by exposing the skin to man-made UV light waves, which shuts down the immune response in cells. For many conditions, this helps to relieve overreaction or allergic reaction by the immune system.
What Conditions Can Phototherapy Help Heal?
A variety of chronic and light-responsive skin conditions can be treated using phototherapy. Some common conditions that are treated with light therapy include:
- Actinic keratosis
- Atopic dermatitis
- Contact dermatitis
- Jaundice (in infants)
- Mycosis fungoides (a type of lymphoma in the skin)
- Skin wounds
What Types of Phototherapy are Available?
There are several types of phototherapy available, with each type being preferable for different conditions or areas of the body. Some options include:
- Broadband UVB—This treatment uses type B UV light. It is not recommended for areas where the skin folds.
- Narrowband UVB—Also called nbUVB, this option uses the same type of UV light in a narrower range. It is better suited to smaller or more specific areas of skin, including skin folds.
- PUVA—In addition to UV light, this option includes medication call psoralen that patients must take before their treatment. Psoralen makes the skin more sensitive to light and can be taken orally as a pill or applied directly to the skin.
- Laser therapy—Excimer lasers emit UV light and can be directed to small, specific areas of the skin for more precise treatment.
What is the Phototherapy Procedure Like?
Before your phototherapy treatment, you will need to take steps to protect your skin outside of the treatment area by carefully covering it and applying sunscreen as necessary. Protective glasses or goggles can also be worn.
Once you are prepared for the treatment, the phototherapy session can be completed in only a few minutes. While your skin is exposed to the light, you will likely feel a warm sensation. Some patients describe this as similar to a sunburn, but the treatment should not be painful.
How Long Does Phototherapy Last?
Once all sessions are complete, the results from phototherapy should be permanent, depending on the skin condition you are treating.
Will I Need More Than One Phototherapy Treatment?
Phototherapy treatment is completed over a series of sessions. The number of treatment sessions you will require depends on the specific type of phototherapy you are receiving. On average, patients can expect between 2-5 treatment sessions per week. PUVA treatments are usually completed over 2-3 months with about 25 treatment sessions total. Laser treatments generally require fewer sessions, with most patients scheduling the treatment about twice a week.
What is the Recovery Time After Phototherapy?
After a phototherapy session, it’s important to avoid exposing your skin to natural sunlight. Remember to use sunscreen and protective clothing outdoors. You should also protect your eyes for at least 24 hours after phototherapy, especially PUVA treatment.
Itching is a common side effect of phototherapy. Patients can help ease itching by taking antihistamines or other medications as recommended by their dermatologist.
Schedule an Appointment
To see if phototherapy is right for you, schedule an appointment with our experienced dermatologists at HMGS Dermatology. Call our Marlton, NJ office at (856) 452-8586 or our Camden, NJ office at (856) 644-6678. You may also request your appointment by completing our online form.