Light therapy for treating psoriasis
Light therapy can be effective in improving the appearance of inflamed, scaly skin associated with psoriasis. Natural ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun and artificial light can be used in the treatment and management of psoriasis. Combining UV light therapy with other medications can support its effectiveness. Your GP or dermatologist can provide you with more information.
Psoriasis patients often notice an improvement after exposing their skin to natural sunlight (sunshine). This form of treatment has been used for over a century. Natural sunlight (sunshine) helps to stop the skin cells from multiplying rapidly thus behaving like normal skin. UVB and ultraviolet light A (UVA) are found in sunlight. Exposure to sunlight can reduce inflammation and slow down the turnover of skin cells which causes scaling. It is important when exposing your skin to sunlight that you protect your skin by using a sunscreen.
UVB treatment (broadband UVB (BBVB) or narrowband UVB (NBUVB)
UVB is an effective treatment for psoriasis penetrating the skin to slow the growth of affected skin cells. Treatment is administered at a medical centre by a professional practitioner. Your Doctor/Dermatologist will recommend how much treatment your skin should receive and will increase/decrease it as necessary.
The difference between the two types of UVB treatment is that the narrowband UVB releases a smaller range of UV light. It is thought that narrowband UVB clears psoriasis faster than broadband UVB.
Your psoriasis may temporarily become worse before you see signs of improvement and it may become red and itchy.
UVB treatment can be used in conjunction with other topical/systemic treatments as directed by your GP or dermatologist.
UVB treatment can be used via a unit at home which for many is a convenient choice. It requires a treatment schedule provided by your Doctor/Dermatologist and you will need to be monitored.
You generally need treatments 3 days a week for 2-3 months.
UVB light treatment for psoriasis is available on prescription.
PUVA (psoralen and ultraviolet A) is an ultraviolet light therapy treatment for eczema and psoriasis, using the sensitizing effects of the drug psoralen which is derived from plants. Psoralen makes the skin more sensitive to UVA light. This process is called photochemotherapy. Psoralen can be administered in tablet form or applied to the skin by way of a gel or cream, prior to exposing the skin to UVA. PUVA helps treat moderate to severe plaque psoriasis which has not responded to topical treatments or UVB treatment. PUVA is given in a specialised centre by a professional practitioner.
PUVA can clear up psoriasis quickly with long lasting results but using it for a long period of time can increase the risk of skin cancer; as a result, it is typically only recommended for severe cases or when other treatments have failed.
These highly focused beams of light target psoriasis patches. This cuts down on side effects and may lower the risk of skin cancer. You will also need fewer treatments compared with other types of light therapy.
The laser uses focused, high energy ultraviolet B light. It can help patches get better faster than other methods. You can usually obtain this treatment in your doctor’s office twice a week for 4-5 weeks.
After laser treatment you should stay out of sunlight and be careful not to injure the area. Call your doctor if you see blisters.
It is important to remember that too much exposure to any form of light therapy can be dangerous: always follow a treatment regime provided by your doctor/dermatologist.
Sources used in writing this article are available on request
Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. Our evidence based articles are accredited by the PIF TICK, the only UK quality mark for trustworthy health information. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.
Information written by the talkhealth team
Last revised: 20 June 2018
Next review: 20 June 2021