Photo Therapy: Narrow Band-UVB
Phototherapy, sometimes referred to as “light treatments”, is the use of visible or ultraviolet (UV) light to treat various skin conditions such as; psoriasis, vitiligo (i.e., the Michael Jackson disease) and eczema, as well as other less common skin diseases. We are all familiar with UV rays as a naturally-occurring component of sunlight and it is well-known that UV radiation can cause skin cancer and premature aging of the skin. While it is always important to protect your skin from the sun through the use of sunblocks, hats and protective clothing; specialized UV light treatments in a controlled, medical setting can be extremely useful in treating skin conditions which may cause considerable physical and emotional discomfort. Phototherapy treatments can employ one of two bands of the ultraviolet spectrum: ultraviolet A (UVA), or ultraviolet B (UVB). The safest, most effective UVB light treatments use narrow band light, meaning only a small portion of the UVB light range. Older UVB light treatments exposed patients to ineffective and unnecessary UVB wavelengths in addition to the effective wavelengths. Narrow Band UVB (UVB-NB) is very effective in treating psoriasis by decreasing the number of white blood cells in the skin and slowing the rapid growth of new skin cells, which results in the symptoms of red, scaly and often painful plaques on the skin. The patient’s body or affected areas are exposed to the light from banks of light tubes that give off a wavelength of 311nm. Some light devices target specific areas such as hands, feet or scalp. Treatments may be given several times a week with a gradual increase in the exposure time. UVB light can be used alone or in conjunction with topical medications and many patients begin to see improvement of symptoms in as few as 6 treatments. The National Psoriasis Foundations has endorsed narrow-band UVB as an effective treatment for psoriasis.
Vitiligo, a condition in which loss of skin pigment results in milky-white patches in the affected areas, may also benefit from UVA and UVB-NB phototherapy. However, repigmentation of the skin often requires a longer course of UV treatments than does psoriasis treatment.
Other types of phototherapy may be used to treat acne, rejuvenate aging or sun-damaged skin and even for hair removal. Blue Light Phototherapy for the treatment of acne kills the P. acnes bacteria in the skin. Bacteria multiplying in the sebaceous glands that surround hair follicles can cause or aggravate acne resulting in the common pimple to more severe forms of acne. The key is to reduce the acne-causing bacteria while minimizing irritation to the skin. The Blue Light is a gentle, effective treatment which can be administered alone but is most often used in conjunction with topical and/or oral acne medications. Studies show that Blue Light provides treatment for both active acne lesions and inactive sebaceous glands may contribute to future acne.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is a treatment for photorejuvenation and hair removal. IPL technology is used to treat pigmentation and vascular changes (broken capillaries) caused by sun damage or birth marks and is very effective in reducing facial redness and flushing associated with rosacea. The pulses of light produced by the IPL equipment are very brief and result in only minor discomfort and irritation, similar to that of a mild sunburn. The light from IPL is filtered to remove any ultraviolet components. Usually 5 or 6 treatments are needed to achieve optimal results in decreasing or eliminating unwanted pigmentation or facial redness. For hair removal, the number of IPL treatments needed will vary depending on the size of the area to be treated.
A promising newer technology in skin rejuvenation is LED Light Therapy. LED stands for Light-Emitting Diode which is the same technology responsible for that little red light on your television remote control and numerous other types of common lighting. When used for photorejuvenation of the skin, the infrared light produced by the LED lamps is believed to stimulate fibroblast activity in the skin which increases the production of collagen and elastin; proteins which are responsible for skin tone and elasticity. The advantages of LED treatments are the fact they are painless and do not require chemical or surgical procedures to help tighten skin, smooth fine lines and wrinkles and help reduce the look of pore size. However, most patients achieve maximum benefits of LED light therapy when combined with other treatments and procedures, as well as, good skin care and sun avoidance. There are several home versions of both Blue Light and LED Skin Rejuvenation systems. Home treatment systems can be a great compliment to regimes prescribed by your dermatologist but are always safest and most effective when done under you doctor’s supervision.
If you suffer from localized psoriasis, narrow band UVB treatments may help to clear your outbreaks. While it may take up to 25 treatments on average to clear your outbreak, many patients experience remission after narrow band UVB treatments.
If other psoriasis treatments haven’t succeeded in clearing up your psoriasis outbreak, schedule a free consultation with a dermatologist at Dermatologic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery today to learn about the ways we can help you with psoriasis.