Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales. Phototherapy reduces the production of overactive skin cells. In addition, phototherapy is an effective option for targeting psoriasis, which uses natural and artificial light to target skin cells.

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis commonly presents with patches of skin that are dry, red and covered in silver scales.

Common symptoms include:

  • Red, raised, inflamed patches of skin
  • Whitish-silver scales or plaques on the red patches
  • Dry skin that may crack and bleed
  • Soreness around patches
  • Itching and burning sensations around patches
  • Thick, pitted nails
  • Painful, swollen joints

Why Undergo Psoriasis treatment?

Psoriasis affects a person’s self-confidence and psychological wellbeing, leaving many feeling embarrassed of the patch skin affected, affecting day to day life and caused by environmental triggers that are otherwise unavoidable. Most people with psoriasis have flare-ups of symptoms. The condition may cause severe symptoms for a few days or weeks, and then the symptoms may clear up and be almost unnoticeable. Common triggers are stress, alcohol, medications, skin injury, or hormonal changes. A number of these triggers cannot be avoided daily; therefore, longer-term treatment is best advised to improve quality of life.

What Are The Benefits of Phototherapy?

Phototherapy is relatively safe and comes with a range of potential benefits:

  • A treatment option where other topical or medication therapies don’t work
  • It may help clear your skin
  • You may experience fewer psoriasis flare-ups in the future
  • It may decrease the need for using topical medications
  • No aftercare is necessary
  • Option for a combination of phototherapy to receive a comprehensive treatment

What Are the Risks of Phototherapy?

Risks of phototherapy include:

  • Sunburn and skin tenderness (common)
  • Premature skin ageing (common)
  • Photosensitive skin eruptions
  • Nonmelanoma skin cancer
  • Cataracts (from UVA treatment)

Phototherapy: What To Expect

Generally, the procedure is carried out as follows:

  • A professional clinician administers phototherapy; moisturiser is applied to the affected areas and will provide you with goggles to protect the eyes from UV light.
  • Depending on how much of the body is affected, you will either stand in a cabinet that contains UV bulbs or the clinician will use a handheld wand for smaller, more specific areas.
  • Beams of UV light at specific wavelengths are passed over the affected areas; exposure time varies from several seconds to a few minutes.
  • UV light inhibits the inflammatory response caused by the immune system affecting the skin.
  • This also influences cell division, regulates the process and reduces reactive symptoms such as itching.

For psoriasis, another form of light therapy is available:

  • Psoralen plus ultraviolet A (PUVA).
  • This entails a treatment of psoralens, either applied directly to the skin or through a tablet. This makes the skin more sensitive to light.
  • Your skin is then exposed to a wavelength of light called ultraviolet A (UVA). This light penetrates your skin more deeply than ultraviolet B light.
  • Usually used for severe forms of psoriasis.

Finally, there is a tailored option where combination phototherapy is possible. This ensures the best possible light therapy for your skin is applied.

How Much Does Phototherapy Cost?

  1. Phototherapy sessions cost approximately £100; patients will commonly need 18 treatments to see effective results. Therefore, the total cost will sum to £1,800. 
  2. The NHS offers topical therapies such as steroid creams or ointments, vitamin D analogues, dithranol and sometimes systemic medications, amongst other options. They also provide advice on what triggers flare-ups and how to avoid them. Phototherapy is uncommonly offered to patients but is suggested as an option upon referral to a dermatologist, which comes with a waiting time of many weeks.
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