Phototherapy for Atopic Dermatitis
Phototherapy is the supervised use of
ultraviolet (UV) light to treat skin conditions,
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
What To Expect After Treatment
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.
Why It Is Done
Phototherapy may be used for
mild, moderate, or severe cases of atopic dermatitis in adults. It is used only for
severe symptoms in children.
How Well It Works
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:
- Skin cancer and cancer. Exposure to UV light
may result in skin cancer. The male genitals are highly susceptible to the
cancer-causing effects of UV therapy.
- Skin damage. Exposure to UV
light may lead to sunburn and skin damage.
risk of cataracts can be reduced by regular use of sunglasses that block UV
light when you are outdoors.
- Other skin diseases getting worse.
UVA produces fewer and milder short-term side effects than
equal doses of UVB light.
What To Think About
Treatments are usually given 2 times a week. UVB treatment requires little
time (from seconds to minutes). UVA treatment is more time-consuming
(typically 20 minutes for a 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 it makes the UVA light more effective.
Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerAmy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
Current as ofMarch 12, 2014