OakLeaf Medical Network Healthy Viewpoints, Winter 2003
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Dr. Caryn Schulz

New ultraviolet light treatments reduce side effects and cost

By Caryn Schulz, MD, Dermatology

For over 50 years physicians have addressed various skin conditions with phototherapy, often called light therapy that uses specific wavelengths of light. This light occurs naturally as a component of sunlight and is called ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet (UV) light treatments use particular bands of light that have slightly greater frequencies than visible light. UV light treatment has been used to treat psoriasis, alone or in combination with other medications. Unfortunately, these medications are expensive and often generated unpleasant side effects.Recently, new equipment has been designed which provides UV benefits, without the need for medication prior to the UV treatment. This eliminates the need for expensive medications and the potential for patient nausea. The new equipment utilizes narrow-band UVB units. Patients with cases of severe psoriasis will typically require a series of 2-3 treatments a week, for a month or more, to bring their symptoms into check. Subsequently, they may receive periodic maintenance treatments to prevent recurrence.

Benefits of narrowband UVB treatments:

  • No medications required
  • Shorter treatment times
  • Same day light therapy treatments. Allows patients to begin treatment on their first visit to doctor.No preparations required
  • Less possible skin damage from long term light exposure

UV light treatments have no special requirements, and can be administered to adults and children. The treatments are administered under the supervision of a physician and are carefully monitored by staff to assure patient safety.
The dosage of light is increased during the course of therapy. Patients are asked to remove clothing from the affected areas and stand in a cubicle lined with special UV lights, similar to a tanning booth. Areas of the skin that are especially sensitive to the effects of UV light, such as the groin, buttocks, or face, are shielded during the treatments. Areas unaffected by psoriasis are also covered. It is important that special goggles be worn to protect the eyes.

Other skin conditions treated with UV light treatments are vitiligo, a condition in which people lose pigmentation in large areas of their skin, and atopic dermatitis, an allergy-related skin condition that produces itchy, reddish, and scaly patches of skin.During the weeks of treatment, patients must be careful to limit or eliminate other exposures to UV radiation, such as from sunlight or tanning beds. Added UV exposure during treatment can cause increased risk of premature aging of the skin and the development of skin cancers. Patients should monitor their skin closely for any signs of precancerous or cancerous skin growths in the future. As with all medical treatments, patients must carefully balance the risks and benefits of UV treatments and monitor their skin.

For more information on narrowband ultraviolet light treatments or to make an appointment, contact Dr. Caryn Schulz, dermatologist, » 715.839.9400 or 800.650.1000.