Research into UV (ultraviolet radiation) phototherapy has yielded positive results for those who suffer from eczema (in particular atopic dermatitis). Phototherapy has also been used successfully to treat seborrhoeic eczema and psoriasis. An eczema patient is exposed to the UV phototherapy for a predetermined length of time. UV phototherapy is not the treatment option for everyone.

Children are generally not administered it and either are those who have a sun-induced reaction or those whose eczema gets worse when it is exposed to a substantial amount of the suns rays. When phototherapy is put into play it is usually only one part of the overall therapy. Other aspects of the therapy include topical medications and lifestyle adjustments (such as diet, exercise, less contact with irritants, etc.).

2 Forms of Phototherapy

There are two types of phototherapy that are used. These include UV light therapy and psoralen plus UVA exposure (also known as chemophototherapy or PUVA). UV light therapy can be used by itself or with a topical substance, usually coal tar. In this case ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) are used or a combination of UVA and UVB is taken advantage of.

Protective goggles must be worn during the light therapy which usually takes place at a doctor or dermatologists office. The eczema skin of the patient is exposed to the ultraviolet light under a controlled set of circumstances. The doctor carefully monitors the entire procedure.


UVB phototherapy is broken down into broadband and narrowband. Broadband is the oldest therapy of the two, having been in use for over a period of eighty years. Broadband has a high success rate but is very time consuming. The eczema patient must go for treatments three to five times a week. Another major disadvantage is that the light of broadband is not able to reach any skin folds on the body or the scalp either.

Narrowband is a newer, more modern form of therapy that only requires patients to commit to two to three treatments per week. It is called “narrowband” because the UVB wavelengths it gives off are indeed narrower.

So far narrowband is showing to have an even higher success rate than broadband. Unfortunately, if not done properly or if left on the skin too long, narrowband can cause terrible burns on the skin. It is not known yet if either of these light therapies could contribute to a greater likelihood of developing skin cancer in the future.

** Psoralen plus UVA**

PUVA demands that an eczema sufferer either consume, bathe in or have topically applied to the skin a substance known as psoralen. Psoralen must be administered before the patients skin is exposed to the rays of the UVA. Psoralen prepares the skin for the rays and makes it more malleable and sensitive to the correct response.

After each individual treatment a patient is required to wear sunglasses that block UVA rays for the remainder of the day. The reason for this is that psoralen stays in the eyes for a few hours afterwards. Unfortunately PUVA has a number of adverse side effects including the potential for fatigue, headaches, nausea, itching, the chance that skin could get burnt and also skin pigmentation can become irregular.

PUVA is only used on patients whom doctors are convinced it will be successful on. PUVA therapy generally takes up to a period of six months and often works at its maximum best when it is done in combination with topical preparations such as corticosteroids.

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