Topical treatments are often enough to control psoriasis, but more persistent cases may require escalated treatments such as phototherapy, or light therapy using ultraviolet light to slow the growth of new skin cells. Normally, skin cells grow and shed in a cycle that takes approximately 28 days. In the case of psoriasis, a chronic skin condition that commonly presents itself with red, dry, elevated plaques of skin, the new skin cells are replaced more rapidly than the body is able to shed them. By interrupting the normal production of skin cells, light therapy may reduce the inflammation, plaque formation and itching that are associated with this disease.
Light therapy involving monitored and timed exposure to UVB light has been found to be effective in controlling psoriasis. Typically, light therapy uses one of two sources of ultraviolet light:
During light therapy treatment, the areas affected by psoriasis may itch, turn red, become irritated and worsen temporarily as the skin adjusts. These symptoms should improve with continued treatment.
Your doctor may recommend light therapy to control psoriasis only after traditional topical creams and ointments become ineffective. Because phototherapy involves regular unprotected exposure to UV rays over an extended period of time, there are risks associated with this type of treatment. Overexposure can cause burns, sun damage, and skin cancer. It is crucial when following this method of treatment to continue regular visits to your health care provider to check for skin damage.