Light Therapy for Psoriasis
Psoriasis, a Common Skin Conditions
Psoriasis is a quite common skin condition, that occurs continuously when the immune system sends out bad signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells.
Psoriasis causes cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin forming itchy, red, scaly patches on your skin. These patches can appear only on specific areas of your body, or they may cover extensive parts of your skin.
While psoriasis is not contagious and sometimes is not really evident, it may cause a great deal of social discomfort and embarrassment, to the point that some people dread so much showing their affected skin they may wear long sleeves and pants even in the hottest months.
There still is not a specific cure for psoriasis but there are several drugs and treatments that can improve the skin condition.
Usually a combination of treatment strategies is prescribed, including topical treatments, phototherapy and systemic medications.
All treatments have the following aims:
- Interrupt the cycle that causes and increased production of skin cells and the formation of patches.
- Remove the scales and smooth the skin.
Psoriasis: Lifestyle and Home Remedies
Self-help measures may not cure psoriasis, but they can sure improve the appearance and feel of your skin. Here are some of the healthy habits recommended by the MayoClinic for people with psoriasis.
- Take daily baths and soak for at least 15 minutes, avoiding hot water and harsh soaps.
- Apply heavy, oily moisturizers especially after baths, when you skin is still moist.
- Cover affected areas overnight with moisturizer and plastic wrap; uncover and wash off scales in the morning.
- Expose your skin to small amounts of sunlight daily.
- Avoid psoriasis triggers such as smoking, intense sun exposure, stress, infections, and injuries to your skin.
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables of all colors, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Sunlight can Benefit Psoriasis
One popular treatment for Psoriasis is sunlight therapy or phototherapy. In fact about 80% of the people that are exposed to sunlight daily see an improvement on their psoriasis.
Sunlight exposure slows the skin cell life cycle and reduces scaling and inflammation.
The key to success to light therapy is to do it expose the skin to ultraviolet light for a set amount of time, regularly, and under medical supervision.
How Light Therapy Helps Psoriasis
Daily exposure to the sun can have great effect on the skin, as long as you don’t overdo it.
While a low amount of the sun’s rays are beneficial, sunburn is not good for your skin, and can actually worsen psoriasis.
It is recommended to start with 10 minutes at noon daily and gradually, if the skin tolerates it, increase by 30 seconds.
Make sure that you wear a good quality sunscreen lotion on the areas unaffected by psoriasis, SPF 15 or greater, that protects from both UVA and UVB rays. If you are fair–skinned you may want to use higher SPF-coverage sunscreen.
If you sunbathe, take short sessions, three or more times a week. It is always a good idea to write down the time of the day and how long you were in the sun, to avoid overexposure and to check on changes and improvements of your psoriasis.
Get out in the sun regularly for short periods of time, it has been proven to be a great natural treatment to psoriasis. However, a small number of people, around 10%, can see their psoriasis worsen with sun exposure.
If getting outside in the sun does not work out for you, artificial ultraviolet light is a great alternative solution. The most useful ultraviolet light to treat psoriasis is UVB, or short-wave light.
This treatment can be done in a medical setting or at home, but it is not the kind of UV light you get from tanning beds. Tanning beds emit mostly UVA light, and the benefits for psoriasis are attributed to UVB light.
The National Psoriasis Foundation and the other main health organizations strongly discourage the use of tanning beds as treatment for psoriasis and also because the ultraviolet radiations from tanning devices can damage the skin, cause premature aging and increase the risk of cancer.
Light Therapy for Scalp Psoriasis
About half of the people with psoriasis have it on theirs scalp.
Scalp psoriasis can be very mild or severe and can sometimes extend beyond the hairline, onto the forehead, neck and around ears.
Hair blocks UV light from reaching the scalp, so to achieve positive results with light therapy for scalp psoriasis you need to make the affected areas reachable by the light:
Unless you have very thin hair, you may want to part your hair in several rows, or even shave it.
To deliver a higher intensity of light you can use handheld devices called UV combs.
Some topical medicines can increase the risk of sunburn.
Before beginning a sunlight regimen, ask your doctor about the best way to use sunlight therapy to treat your skin.
This APT medical series explores illnesses one at a time and features a panel of physicians and other experts assessing individual cases. This episode: Psoriasi