Phototherapy for Stubborn Eczema
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) affects approximately 20% of the population in the U.S. Current research discussed the extreme financial and emotional burden of eczema and lack of therapeutic options for the disease. Ultraviolet (UV) phototherapy is an effective treatment but there are not established guidelines for dosing this treatment. Below you will find recommendations for phototherapy from a review of current research and academic literature.
Phototherapy is basically treating eczema with light. Narrowband ultraviolet B light is the treatment of choice for most patients with eczema. A machine produces or emits UVB light between 311-312 nm. The range of 311-312 nm is the range of light that benefits skin diseases. UVA light is the damaging rays and causes an increase in aging and can also cause skin cancers.
Other phototherapy rays that are used less often for treating eczema are UVA1 (340-400 nm), PUVA (Psorlaen and UVA), and Broadband UVB phototherapy (290-320 nm).
How Does Phototherapy Help Eczema?
- Phototherapy increases vitamin D production. Studies have found that vitamin D can minimize eczema symptoms.
- Phototherapy helps to fight bacteria on the skin
- Phototherapy calms the itch
- Phototherapy brings down inflammation
Are There Risks to Phototherapy?
Because phototherapy usually does not include UVA rays, it is considered safer that natural sunlight but it can still create burns, increase the signs of aging and increase the risk of skin cancers.
When Should You Consider Phototherapy?
Phototherapy should be considered when wet wrap therapy and dry wrap therapy does not completely treat the eczema. Phototherapy combined with wet and dry wrap therapy can help individuals avoid prescription drugs with side effects such as topical steroids.
Is Phototherapy Effective?
Yes, phototherapy seems to help about 60-70% of patients that have not responded to other eczema treatments. Most individuals see an improvement after about a month or two of regular treatments. The good news is that when it does work, the improvements can last for a long time after treatments have ended.
What is the Process of Phototherapy?
Upon arrival the patient will undress down to undergarments and protective goggles and apply a moisturizing oil to the skin.
The patient will then stand by the phototherapy machine and when activated it will treat the skin in a few seconds or minutes. Phototherapy machines can treat the entire body or just affected areas of the skin.
The doctor or nurse should take detailed records of how the eczema responds to treatment and usually the treatment increases with each visit.
Patients usually need to be treated 2-3 times per week for 1-2 months.
Phototherapy is discontinued after 2 months and eczema can go into remission if the individual responds to the therapy.
Individuals may continue phototherapy once or twice a week to keep eczema from returning.