UVB - Ultra Violet B Therapy

UVB - Ultra Violet B Therapy

Why ultraviolet light may help

Approximately 80% of people with psoriasis notice an improvement in their skin after they have been in the sunshine. The use of the sun’s rays has been used to treat psoriasis for over a century, however, of the ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun, only UVA and UVB is of benefit to people with psoriasis.

UV light helps to power chemical reactions that affect the function of skin cells. In psoriasis, this means that the skin cells do not multiply so rapidly, and behave more like normal skin.

What is UVB treatment?

Since the 1920’s, UVB (280-320nm) has been artificially used to treat guttate and generalised plaque psoriasis that has not responded to topical treatments, or is particularly widespread. In 1981 the precise wavelength of UVB that is of benefit to people with psoriasis was discovered, this lies between 300-313nm. Since this discovery UVB treatment has been developed based on the narrowband of 311-313nm, using the Phillips TL-01 lamp. You may therefore hear of UVB treatment being referred to as Broadband UVB (BBUVB) or Narrowband UVB (NBUVB or TL-01).

This type of treatment is given in a phototherapy centre and administered by a team of health professionals. Your dermatologist will calculate precisely how much UVB light your skin should be subjected to, and will increase the exposure accordingly. Treatment is usually given two or three times a week, for a period of four to six weeks. You will need to stand in the UVB cabinet for a period of a few seconds to several minutes.

What are the risks / side effects?

  • Exposure to UV light (A or B) can cause skin damage, premature ageing and increases the risk of skin cancer. For these reasons, the British Photodermatology Group have issued guidelines as to the total number of UV treatments an individual can have in a lifetime.
  • Some redness of the skin and subsequent tanning is likely, but you should let the staff in the department know if you experience any burning sensations (usually 12-24 hours after treatment).
  • UV treatment can cause the skin to become dry and subsequently itchy – apply plenty of moisturiser in order to overcome this. However, if the itching worsens, do tell the phototherapy nurse or dermatologist.
  • The Psoralen tablet can make you feel sick – if you experience this, do mention it to the dermatologist as they may be able to change the type of Psoralen, or prescribe a tablet to stop you feeling sick.

Sunbeds, sunlamps and natural sunlight

UV treatment in hospital is very carefully controlled and using a sunbed outside the hospital setting makes it difficult to ensure that you are receiving the correct dose. Pure UVA sunbeds are also ineffective for the treatment of psoriasis. It is still important to follow sun safety advice even if your psoriasis improves in the sunshine so as to prevent the potential side effects such as skin cancer and premature ageing. Sunburn can actually aggravate psoriasis, so do use a suncream with an SPF of 15 or above and re-apply it regularly. Aim to cover up with a hat, t-shirt and sunglasses, and avoid being out in the hot sun between 11am and 2pm.

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