Phototherapy is the supervised use of ultraviolet (UV) light to treat skin conditions, including atopic dermatitis. Ultraviolet B (UVB), ultraviolet A (UVA), or a combination of UVB and UVA may be used during therapy.
During phototherapy, you stand in a booth that contains light tubes that give off UV light. Goggles should be worn to protect your eyes during treatment. Men need to shield their genitals to avoid an increased risk of genital cancer.
As your skin recovers from treatment, it should be checked frequently (at least once or twice a year) for signs of skin damage or skin cancer.
Phototherapy is usually used for mild to moderate cases of atopic dermatitis in adults. It is used only for severe symptoms in children.
Phototherapy with ultraviolet (UV) light can be an effective treatment for severe atopic dermatitis. Combined UVA and UVB light have a more beneficial effect than UVA or UVB light alone.
UV light may help prevent bacterial infections, which are a particular problem in people with atopic dermatitis.
Risks related to phototherapy include:
UVA produces fewer and milder short-term side effects than equal doses of UVB light.
UVB treatment requires little time (from seconds to minutes), while UVA treatment is more time-consuming (typically 20 minutes per treatment).
A similar type of treatment, psoralen plus ultraviolet light therapy (PUVA) combines a type of medicine (psoralen) with ultraviolet A (UVA) light to treat atopic dermatitis. The psoralen makes the skin more sensitive to the ultraviolet light. This therapy has additional risks but enhances the effectiveness of UVA light.
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