Phototherapy involves the use of different types of light to treat plaque psoriasis. Laser treatment is a type of phototherapy that uses special lasers to treat affected skin and improve psoriasis symptoms.
Laser treatment works best for chronic, localized psoriasis plaques that cover less than 10 percent of your body. It can be especially helpful for difficult-to-treat regions such as the scalp, elbows, palms of the hands, knees, and soles of the feet. Laser treatment is usually prescribed for mild-to-moderate cases of psoriasis that do not respond after three months of topical treatment.
Laser treatment may offer quicker results than other types of phototherapy. Laser treatment is also safer for surrounding, healthy skin than other, less targeted phototherapy treatments.
What does it involve?
Laser treatments are conducted at dermatology clinics. You will be asked to wear goggles to protect your eyes. You may experience sensations of warmth or snapping during the treatment. Those with darker skin require longer laser treatment sessions than those with lighter skin.
There are two types of lasers used to treat psoriasis: pulsed dye lasers and excimer lasers.
Pulsed dye lasers emit an intense beam of yellow light. Within your skin, the light converts to heat and destroys small blood vessels that doctors believe help create psoriasis plaques. Laser treatment sessions with pulsed dye lasers last 15 to 30 minutes, and are usually scheduled every three weeks. Lesions treated with pulsed dye lasers often clear after approximately four to six treatments.
Excimer lasers emit an intense beam of UVB light at a carefully tuned wavelength. The beam is focused on the plaques, where it is believed to help disrupt the inflammatory process and slow the growth of cells that cause psoriasis. Treatment sessions with excimer lasers last 15 to 30 minutes. Sessions are usually scheduled two per week for at least three weeks. Sessions must be scheduled at minimum 48 hours apart. Lesions treated with excimer lasers often clear after approximately four to 10 treatments.
Laser treatments can provide significant, long-term improvement in the appearance and symptoms of psoriasis.
In clinical studies, 57 to 82 percent of psoriasis cases respond to pulsed dye laser treatment. The effects of pulsed dye laser treatment may last as long as 15 months.
In a 2002 clinical study involving 124 people with mild-to-moderate plaque psoriasis, 84 percent of those who received excimer laser treatments improved by at least 75 percent. The effects of excimer laser treatment may last as long as six months.
Pulsed dye laser treatments may cause bruising for as long as 10 days after a treatment. Rarely, pulsed dye lasers may cause scars or skin atrophy.
Common side effects of excimer laser treatment include redness, blisters, hyperpigmentation, and erosion. Excimer laser treatment may also cause pain, sunburn, and weeping sores.
Laser treatments may not be effective for treating your psoriasis.
You must visit the clinic regularly for laser treatments.
With any phototherapy, your psoriasis may worsen at first before it begins healing. Redness and itching are common side effects of phototherapy.
Some psoriasis medications such as Elidel and Protopic can increase your risk of sunburn during phototherapy.
If you are receiving light therapy, you should limit your exposure to sunlight.