Hope for Psoriasis Patients with Ultraviolet Light Therapyby Anne Windermere Patient Advocate
The diagnosis of psoriasis can be emotionally devastating for patients who must struggle to cope with this chronic skin disease. Psoriasis is not contagious so you don't "catch" psoriasis like the flu. This is due to the fact that psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. What happens with psoriasis is that the immune system delivers faulty signals to accelerate the growth of skin cells. This increase in skin cell growth can cause the most common type of psoriasis called "plaque psoriasis." Plaque psoriasis appears as skin lesions, inflamed red patches of skin which are covered with silvery-white scales. These lesions or red patches can appear anywhere on the body. Some psoriasis patients have so many skin lesions that they may require hospitalization.
The fact that this skin disease can drastically alter one's appearance as well as the persistence of symptoms despite repeated treatments can be psychologically damaging to the typical psoriasis patient.
How many people have psoriasis?
The National Psoriasis Foundation gives an estimate that many as 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis. Only one in three sufferers has some family history of this autoimmune disease.
Are there other conditions associated with psoriasis?
Yes. Psoriasis is associated with some serious health problems including diabetes, heart disease and depression. If you suffer from any of these co-conditions you may find information and support on these Health Central sites:
How can psoriasis be treated?
Although much of the literature focuses upon topical or systemic treatments including things like creams, sprays, ointments and medication such as Benadryl, the American Academy of Dermatology has been concentrating its efforts on providing new guidelines for the use of ultraviolet (UV) therapy for treating psoriasis. These guidelines have just been recently published on-line in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. You may read these additional guidelines yourself through the American Academy of Dermatology web site.
The advantages of UV light therapy for the treatment of psoriasis include: This type of therapy has been shown to be effective, it is relatively low cost to patients, and it does not suppress the immune system as do other biologic or systemic methods. The primary disadvantage is that there is the risk for skin cancer due to the delivery of potentially harmful UV light to the skin. This risk needs to be discussed with your dermatologist prior to initiation of UV light therapy.
Are there different types of UV light therapy?
There sure are. For more than half a century UV light therapy has been of the broadband type to treat large areas of psoriasis. But in the 1990's a newer and more effective form of UV light therapy was introduced called narrowband ultra violet light therapy or (NB)-UVB therapy. Some of the side effects to (NB)-UVB therapy include redness, itching, burning and/or stinging. Again, it is advisable to discuss the possible side effects to this type of treatment with your doctor. While some patients will respond to (NB)-UVB therapy alone, many doctors will individualize treatment by prescribing topical and systemic agents in addition to UV light therapy.
Another type of light therapy some doctors may use to treat your psoriasis is called Excimer Laser therapy. What is unique about this type of laser treatment is that the laser is able to precisely target only those skin cells affected by the psoriasis. Healthy skin cells will not be exposed to the UV radiation. Possible side effects to this type of treatment may include some redness, burning, and darkening of the skin. The typical patient will see results in four to ten sessions depending upon the severity of their psoriasis and how well they respond to treatment. The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends that patients receive two treatments per week, with a minimum of 48 hours between treatments.
Are there people who are not good candidates for UV light therapy?
It is strongly suggested that the following types of patients would be at too much risk for receiving any type of UV light therapy:
Patients with Lupus
Patients with a genetic disease called xerodema pigmentosum, which predisposes the individual to extraordinary sensitivity to sunlight.
Patients with multiple non-melanoma skin cancers or a history of melanoma.
Patients who are taking medications which make them more sensitive to UV light.
Patients who are immunosuppressed such as those who have had organ transplantation.
For more information on both Psoriasis and possible treatments please visit the following web sites.