Natural sunlight is composed of both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) light. Of the two, UVB light is a safer and more effective treatment for psoriasis.
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.
You can receive UVB light in several different ways. One method is to expose the portions of your skin affected by psoriasis to sunlight. Multiple, brief exposures are safest and most effective. You can begin by exposing your skin to sunlight for five to 10 minutes at noon each day. If your skin tolerates the exposure well, increase the amount of time for 30 seconds each day. Make sure all affected skin receives a consistent amount of exposure. Protect unaffected skin from sunburn by applying sunblock.
Another option is to receive UVB therapy at a clinic. The biggest benefit of outpatient UVB treatment is that narrow-band UVB light, the most effective type against psoriasis, will be used. Narrow-band UVB light has been shown to reduce psoriasis 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. Your physician may prescribe a topical medication to enhance the effectiveness of the UVB treatments.
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.
Most physicians agree that tanning beds do not provide safe or effective therapy for psoriasis.
UVB treatments can improve the appearance and symptoms of psoriasis. People who take systemic medications for psoriasis may be able to reduce the dosage of the medication by incorporating UVB therapy.
In multiple clinical studies, UVB light has been proven to be a safe and effective treatment for psoriasis.
With any phototherapy, your psoriasis may worsen at first before it begins healing. Redness and itching are common side effects of phototherapy.
Exposure to sunlight can cause sunburn and increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Always protect unaffected skin by applying sunblock. Pregnant women should apply sunblock to the face before exposure to sunlight.
Some psoriasis medications such as Elidel and Protopic can increase your risk for sunburn.
If you are receiving light therapy, you should limit your exposure to sunlight.
Weather and seasonal changes may make it difficult to maintain consistent home treatment with sunlight.