Some people whose eczema does not respond to medication may benefit from phototherapy, or therapy using specific types of light. Natural sunlight is composed of both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) light. Of the two, UVB light is most commonly used to treat eczema.
What does it involve?
UVB is believed to work by penetrating the skin and slowing down the growth of skin cells. UVB treatment works best when it is delivered consistently to all affected areas.
The biggest benefit of outpatient UVB treatment is that narrow-band UVB light will be used. Narrow-band UVB light has been shown to reduce eczema symptoms more quickly and maintain remission for longer than broad-band UVB light. You may need fewer treatments to produce results using narrow-band UVB light. UVB therapy is also more likely to provide consistent treatment than exposure to sunlight at home.
UVB therapy must be regular to be effective. UVB phototherapy requires two or three treatments a week for one to two months before improvements are apparent.
If UVB therapy proves beneficial for you, you may decide to purchase UVB equipment for use at home. Home UVB equipment can provide narrow-band UVB treatments in a convenient and inexpensive format. However, it is important to maintain a consistent treatment schedule for the best results. Some health insurance plans will partially cover the cost of home UVB equipment.
Less commonly, your doctor may suggest you try a regimen of UVA light combined with Psoralen, a medication that increases sensitivity to light. Together, the treatment is called Psoralen + UVA (PUVA). PUVA treatment is also referred to as photochemotherapy. Another type of phototherapy utilizes ultraviolet A1 (UVA1) light.
Most physicians agree that tanning beds do not provide safe or effective therapy for eczema.
Always wear eye protection and moisturizer during phototherapy treatments.
UVB treatments can improve itching and inflammation associated with eczema, increase vitamin D, and help fight bacterial infection.
In multiple clinical studies on phototherapy for atopic dermatitis, phototherapy has been proven a safe and effective treatment for many people.
Phototherapy may increase your risk for skin cancer.
Phototherapy may cause your skin to age faster.
Some eczema medications can increase your risk for sunburn.
If you are receiving light therapy, you should limit your exposure to sunlight.
For more information, visit:
Phototherapy – National Eczema Association
Management of atopic dermatitis: safety and efficacy of phototherapy – Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology