Ultraviolet Light Therapy for Skin Issues

Healing with ultraviolet light is a technique that has been used by people for many centuries and modern science also accepts its effectiveness. Light at different wavelengths can be used for many therapeutic purposes. In fact, concentrated beams of light or laser therapy can be used to perform surgical procedures. At lower concentration levels, light can be used to heal skin wounds, infections, and other conditions. Doctors are increasingly applying light waves to help people with different medical issues. One of these applications is ultraviolet light therapy.

Consider using these devices to get ultraviolet light therapyat home. However, make sure to check with your medical practitioner before using any devices without supervision.

What is Ultraviolet Light Therapy?

Ultraviolet light therapy is also called phototherapy or photochemotherapy. A part of natural sunlight, ultraviolet rays are a distinct band of light spectrum that is not visible. In place of just spending time in the sun, you can make use of many high-tech devices for getting ultraviolet therapy. These devices provide you with UVA and UVB rays of light. Aside from using UVA and UVB treatments, doctors also combine the therapy with medications to help with skin issues such as psoriasis, eczema, and jaundice in newborn babies. This therapy is called PUVA treatments. You may be asked to apply ointments and salves or take the medications internally in pill form.

Ultraviolet light therapy is the preferred choice of treatment for doctors. Since it has relatively fewer side effects, they would recommend that you opt for the therapy in place of other medications. While getting the therapy can have a host of positives, it does involve visiting your doctor’s clinic many times during the week during working hours. For this reason, many patients prefer other treatments that are not likely to disrupt their work and home schedules. Getting ultraviolet light therapy may also work out to be a bit expensive since insurance companies consider it as an office visit and you may be asked to co-pay for the treatment.

How Ultraviolet Light Therapy Works

Ultraviolet light therapy is known to be highly effective for many skin conditions. To give you an understanding of how ultraviolet light therapy works, let’s talk about psoriasis as an example. This skin condition is caused when the body’s immune system attacks the skin cells. As a result, they start to multiply rapidly because of which you notice redness, itching, and lesions on the skin. Ultraviolet therapy works to kill the immune cells in the skin that cause the condition. The UV light also prevents the forming of skin lesions by breaking the connections between the skin cells and immune cells. By slowing the rapid, uncontrolled growth of the skin cells, UV rays can stimulate the healing of skin infections and injuries.

Benefits of Ultraviolet Light Therapy

Patients that don’t have a history of skin cancer and are not taking photosensitive drugs can takeultraviolet light therapy for SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Your dermatologist might also recommend that you try natural or artificial ultraviolet light therapy for any of these skin conditions:

  • Psoriasis: A chronic skin disease that appears on the elbows and knees, and in the genital areas. Patients see reddish-pink and silvery scales and even, lesions with itching.
  • Eczema
  • Vitiligo: A condition where the skin loses pigmentation and shows white patches
  • Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma: A kind of skin cancer
  • Pruritus: Uncontrollable, constant skin itching
  • Acne vulgaris or blemishes, whiteheads, blackheads, and breakouts
  • Jaundice in newborn babies
  • Graft-versus-host disease that occurs because of a complication from bone marrow transplants
  • Atopic dermatitis: A kind of allergic reaction

How the Therapy is Given

ultraviolet light therapy
John Tsagaris

You can get ultraviolet light therapy naturally by exposing your skin to the sun. You can also try the many devices that are available today in the privacy of your home or in a doctor’s clinic. The number of sessions you need and the time for which each session must last depends on the specific skin issue. Typically, UV therapy sessions last for a few minutes to one hour. You may be asked to come in every day or a few times each week. But, you can rest assured that these devices have carefully controlled levels of UV radiation and are not likely to hurt you. Some of them are:

  • Lightboxes, light beds or walk-in cabinets that are fully-sized to accommodate an adult
  • Handheld devices can be used to give UV therapy to smaller sections of the body like on the arms or legs.
  • UV light combs can be used to stimulate the growth of hair and control hair loss.
  • For newborn babies with jaundice, UV therapy can be given by placing them in special infant incubators where the light source is located on the roof.

Risks Associated with Ultraviolet Light Therapy

If you opt to take UV therapy, it is advisable that you follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. You must also take the treatment under the supervision of an expert physician. While the therapy has several benefits, an overdose and long-term use of UV light can have side effects such as:

  • Premature aging of the skin
  • Skin cancer
  • Sunburns and undesirable discoloration of the skin with brownish pigmentation
  • Cataracts and other eye damage
  • Damage to skin collagen and Vitamin A and C levels in the skin
  • Hampers the formation of free radicals in the skin
  • Skin dryness and irritation
  • Headache and nausea

Precautions to Take When Getting the Therapy

ultraviolet light therapy
Psoriasis Treatments

Before signing you up for ultraviolet light therapy, your doctor will ask you a series of questions to determine that you are a good candidate for the treatment. She will also take various steps to make sure that the treatment is effective and safe.

  • If you have a history of migraines, your doctor may advise you not to take the treatment.
  • If you are taking psoralens also called photosensitizing agents, you must take careful precautions to prevent exposure to sunlight. That’s because these agents can maximize the effects of the sun on your skin. Inform your doctor if you are taking medications like vitamin A derivatives, isotretinoin, tetracycline, and other similar drugs including diuretics.
  • Patients with a history of skin cancer cannot take UV therapy.
  • Your doctor may ask you to wear adequate sunblock before getting the therapy to protect your skin.
  • you have opted to take UV therapy, your dermatologist will recommend that you get tested for skin cancer once a year.

Prepping and Aftercare

When you arrive for your ultraviolet light therapy, the technicians will prep you carefully. Here are the steps they’ll take:

  • You will be asked to keep your eyes carefully shielded from exposure by wearing goggles.
  • You may be asked to keep only the areas affected by the skin condition exposed. Cover the healthy sections of the skin including the face.
  • To enhance the effects of the treatment, your doctor might apply topical agents such as coal tar, petroleum jelly, or emollients.
  • In case psoralens are prescribed, you must take them an hour before starting the therapy.

After the therapy, you need not take any special precautions. However, do keep these pointers in mind:

  • Limit your exposure to sunlight or UV radiation like from tanning beds.
  • Examine your skin regularly for any signs that may indicate cancer.

Ultraviolet light therapy can have many benefits for skin conditions. But, like with all other forms of treatment, you need to take the necessary precautions. As long as you follow your doctor’s recommendations, you can get relief from the skin conditions that the treatment can help you treat.

References:
“Ultraviolet Light Treatment.” The Free Dictionary by Farlex. n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
Hainer, Ray. “A Guide to Using Light Therapy for Psoriasis” Health. 19 May 2009. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
“Ultraviolet light treatment.” Cancer Research UK. n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
“Ultraviolet Light Therapy.” Wound Care Centers. n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.