What is Phototherapy treatment?
Phototherapy is a highly effective dermatology treatment for psoriasis, eczema and vitiligo where the skin is exposed to ultraviolet light to reduce inflammation. Many people with psoriasis notice that there is an improvement in their skin after they have been in the sunshine. It is a small part of the UVB spectrum (called narrowband UVB) which is most effective in treating these conditions. Narrowband UVB is sometimes also referred to as TL-01 which is the name of the lamp that is used in the phototherapy booth.
Whether receiving phototherapy treatment for psoriasis, eczema or vitiligo, each condition has a specific protocol for treatment which involves a number of sessions of timed amounts of increasing exposure to light within the UVB spectrum. A typical treatment regime may include up to three sessions a week, performed every second day, for up to six weeks.
What is involved in Phototherapy treatment?
Phototherapy treatment is performed at a Dermatology hospital or clinic and the treatment is managed by a Dermatologist. Phototherapy patients will initially have a consultation with a Dermatologist who will review your medical history and assess your suitability for phototherapy treatment. The Dermatologist will determine your starting dose in phototherapy by performing a MED (minimal erythema dose) test, in order to test what your skin can tolerate. You would typically return the following day for your test reading, and then have your first treatment.
The treatment protocol will depend on the condition being treated, but typically patients have 3 sessions a week, every two days, so either a Monday, Wednesday and Friday or a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. A standard course is around 6 weeks.
Patients disrobe into their underwear and will be provided with goggles. You will go into the walk-in phototherapy booth which is an upright booth, the inside of which is covered in medical grade vertical UVB light tubes to ensure an even treatment. The operator will enter your details into the controlling computer which will be preloaded with the Dermatologist approved protocol. The booth is activated and you are exposed to the UVB light while fans keep you cool and well ventilated, and the PPE protect your eyes. The actual treatment time ranges from a few seconds initially up to a few minutes as the exposure time is increased. Following the treatment session you can leave and return to work or home.
How effective is Phototherapy treatment?
Phototherapy has long been the option of choice for Dermatologists and patients around the world. While not all patients will respond to treatment and the results are not permanent, many patients find that they achieve excellent results which last for several months.
In psoriasis, significant improvement from phototherapy may be seen within two weeks. Most patients achieve clearance after 15 to 20 treatments and experience a remission rate of 38% after one year.
What are the risks and potential side effects of Phototherapy treatment?
Exposure to ultraviolet light can cause skin damage, premature ageing and increases the risk of skin cancer, however this is also true of exposure to natural sun light. At The London Skin and Hair Clinic we offer narrowband UVB treatment which focuses on a small part of the light spectrum, avoiding some of the more harmful wavelengths. To protect your eyes, patients are provided with googles during treatment, or where the face doesn’t require treatment with a visor. The treatment is supervised by a Dermatologist who calculates the exposure dosage in order to minimise risks and side effects but maximise the results. Narrowband UVB has fewer side effects compared to other treatments. You do not need to take oral medication, it is safe during pregnancy and breast feeding and there is no need for eye protection following treatment. Ultraviolet light can increase the risk of skin cancer however the dosage during phototherapy is relatively low and the number of sessions monitored to minimise this risk. Phototherapy can cause the skin to tan and freckle.
You may experience some redness or blistering after your treatment, it’s important to tell us if this happens. You may also find that your skin condition worsens temporarily after treatment. Again, you should inform your Dermatologist or clinician if this happens, in case we need to adjust your treatment to let it settle down.
What aftercare is required for Phototherapy treatment?
There is no aftercare required for phototherapy. Following a treatment session you can return to work or resume your normal daily activities.
What is the cost of phototherapy treatment?
Phototherapy patients will need an initial consultation with a Dermatologist which would cost from £190 to £240 and would include an MED test. Phototherapy sessions cost £80 to £100 per session and patients typically require around 18 treatments, so £1,440 to £1,800 for a set of 18 treatments.
Phototherapy treatment at The London Skin and Hair Clinic is recognised by all UK private health insurers and so where your private health insurer has given you authorisation for the treatment, we are able to bill your insurer directly for phototherapy treatment.
Why wouldn't someone be suitable for phototherapy?
- If you are not able to attend regular treatment sessions (typically three times per week for 6 weeks)
- If you are not able to stand without aid for up to ten minutes
- If your skin condition is exacerbated by sunlight
- If you are on immunosuppressant medication such as cyclosporine or methotrexate
- If you have on medications that make you more sensitive to light