Doctors say laser treatment is unlikely to replace phototherapy in psoriasis management. "Laser treatment appears to be effective for resistant cases", but it's probably not worth the cost for mild or moderate cases, says Harold Brody, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Like the laser, phototherapy also uses ultraviolet light to clear psoriasis patches. "Dermatologists often have a light box, mounted on the back of a door, that emits different wavelengths of ultraviolet light," Brody tells WebMD. "Patients simply stand in front of it at prescribed intervals, usually after taking an oral drug called psoralen." The drug increases the effects of light on the skin.
But due to the risk of cancer, this approach is only used when symptoms aren't controlled with steroid skin creams. "For moderate to severe cases, several months of phototherapy is often needed to resolve symptoms, even with two treatments a week," adds Brody.
At present, most health plans cover phototherapy and few, if any, cover laser treatment. But its potential to eliminate 25 or more office visits with every outbreak, while reducing the risk of cancer, may cause the managed care industry to take notice of this effective new treatment.
The study was supported in part by Laser Phototonics Inc. of San Diego.
- A recent study showed that a laser beam of ultraviolet light can clear psoriasis patches in a single treatment with a fairly long remission, but blistering was common.
- Unlike traditional phototherapy, laser treatments spare surrounding healthy tissue from unnecessary radiation exposure, reducing the risk of cancer and premature aging.
- Several months of phototherapy is often needed to clear moderate to severe recurrences, but treatments are usually covered by health insurance.