There are currently various treatment options for skin conditions such as eczema, vitiligo, and psoriasis. One of these treatments is phototherapy with narrowband ultraviolet band (UVB) light therapy. Competent dermatology clinics nowadays, including the clinic of Drs. Matsuda and Sheu in Honolulu, HI, offer this service to people who want to treat certain skin disorders.
What is narrowband UVB therapy?
This treatment is the most common among the phototherapy procedures are used to treat a lot of common skin diseases. The term “narrow-band” is actually a certain wavelength of UV radiation, which ranges from 311 to 312 nm. As a fact, UVB phototherapy has also been used as broadband source using 290 to 320 nm.
How is it different from “broadband” phototherapy?
Broadband UVB therapy has been the conventional tool in phototherapy. It involves the emission of light using the broad range on the UVB spectrum. While this includes the therapeutic wavelengths responsible for the treatment of skin diseases, it also emits the much shorter wavelengths which can cause sunburn or redness. Apart from causing major discomfort, sunburns may increase the risk for skin cancer. These short wavelengths also prevent emission of larger amounts of the therapeutic UVB for the patient’s treatment.
On the other hand, narrowband UVB lamps only emit a very small wavelength range which is only concentrated on the therapeutic effect of the light. It includes little in the range which causes sunburn. Therefore, using narrowband UVB is much safer than the conventional broadband UVB.
What do I need to know about phototherapy UVB treatments?
If you require UVB therapy, you may have to attend 1 to 3 phototherapy sessions every week. You may be placed in a special cabinet which contains fluorescent light tubes on the inside. The patient may be asked to stand on the center, only wearing an underwear and protective goggles. Exposure to UVB usually only lasts for about a few seconds to minutes. The duration of treatment may vary since patients have to be evaluated on the type and condition of their skin, age, and many other factors. During this time, the amount of UV that the patient takes is carefully monitored.
What should I expect during the course of my phototherapy treatments?
After each phototherapy session, your skin may turn pinkish, with what is called the Minimal Erythema Dose, or remain pale. It is advised to seek help from the therapist if any discomfort is experienced.
In the case of psoriasis, the patches of scaly skin may gradually become thinner after about 5 to 10 sessions. Most of the time, psoriasis patients require about 15 to 25 phototherapy sessions for their skin to become clear.
What other skin conditions may be treated by narrowband UVB?
Narrowband UVB phototherapy may also be used for treating other skin disorders, such as:
- Atopic eczema
- Polymorphous light eruption
- Early cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
- Lichen planus
Are there any side effects with a phototherapy UVB treatment?
Most of the time, effective treatments pose corresponding side effects. In the case of narrowband UVB light therapy, it may burn patient’s skin just like sunlight does. This can be countered through applying emollients frequently to the burned skin. Topical steroids may also be used, but only if they are recommended by the therapist. At times, the therapy may stimulate polymorphous light eruption.
When exposed to ultraviolet radiation in longer durations, it may cause skin aging and put the patient at risk for skin cancer. However, latest research proves that using narrowband UVB phototherapy is not any riskier than when using the conventional broadband UVB and could even be less risky than another treatment called photochemotherapy.
What can be expected of the narrowband UVB treatment?
Comprehensive research has confirmed that using this phototherapy treatment, patients do not only prevent themselves from burning due to sub-erythemal exposure, it is also possible for them to have longer remission periods after the whole therapy. Through extensive studies, it shows that 38-40 percent of patients treated with narrowband UVB light therapy have not needed any additional treatment for 12 months at the least.