If you or a loved one has psoriasis, then you’re familiar with the itchy, sore red patches that can come with it. These areas can be dry, and may crack and bleed. While there’s no cure for psoriasis, there are treatments that can help. Excimer laser therapy is one type of treatment that helps get rid of the red patches by exposing them to targeted ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. The brand name of this treatment is XTRAC laser therapy.
How Does It Work?
In people with psoriasis, the thinking is that UVB light helps by damaging immune cells near the surface of the skin. Those immune cells cause the reaction that leads to psoriasis plaques. So damaging them can make the red spots get better or even go away. Because of the risks of using damaging UVB light, a doctor needs to closely oversee the treatment.
Doctors sometimes recommend UVB light boxes for psoriasis. These are medical-grade boxes that you stand in while UVB light is cast over your body. It’s a good option for people who have patches over a lot of their body.
If someone has only a few isolated patches of psoriasis, excimer laser therapy can target their UVB treatment. This FDA-approved method uses a mixture of gases to make a controlled beam of UVB light. Doctors can direct the light only to psoriasis patches without hitting healthy skin. Because this method targets small areas, it’s best for people who have a limited number of red patches or plaques.
Your doctor will recommend the right treatment course for you. Each treatment takes only a few minutes, but you’ll need several. You might have to go one to three times a week for several weeks or even a few months. The amount of UVB you’ll get at each session depends on your skin type and how it reacts to the treatment. People with darker skin need higher doses than people with fair skin.
When Will I See Improvement?
Many people who use light therapy for psoriasis see improvement, but not right away. You’ll need to have several sessions before you notice a change.
After the treatment, your skin might stay clear for a while, even several months. But laser therapy can’t cure psoriasis. It treats plaques you already have. Over time, the spots are likely to come back. You’ll need a new treatment cycle to target them again.
What Are the Risks?
Doctors generally consider excimer laser therapy to be safe. Most people tolerate it well. But if you get too much UV light, it may cause redness the way a sunburn would. You might get blisters and changes in the color of your skin, too.
If you have a lot of laser therapy over time, there’s a chance this could come with an increased risk of skin cancer. Because it treats only the areas that need it, the risk of skin cancer from excimer laser therapy is lower than the risk from light box therapy or sun exposure.
Work With Your Doctor
Laser therapy might be a good alternative if you don’t get much help from ointments, lotions, or other treatments. Because they work in different ways, you may be able to combine laser therapy with other topical treatments. Talk to your doctor to find out if excimer laser therapy should be part of your treatment.