The phototherapy department is run by a team of dermatology nurses including Renata Green supervised by Dr Anne-Marie Skellett . The Hospital has a new Narrowband Ultraviolet B cabinet for the unit which has additional safety features. The image shows one of the nurses programming the treatment time for a patient.
Ultraviolet treatment involves attending two or three times weekly, usually for 6 to 8 weeks. Eczema and psoriasis are the commonest diseases treated. Some other rarer diseases are also treated. The department aims to be as flexible as possible with appointments within the times available. We aim to help our patients fit the treatment around their busy schedules.
Ultraviolet light treatment does have some risks of skin cancer, so the treatment is not done if the condition can be treated safely with creams. For people who are struggling to cope despite using the creams correctly, the treatment can make a huge difference.
What sort of lamps are used?
The lamps used for treatment can treat the whole body or just the hand and feet. The two sorts of lamps used for the body give out either:
- Narrow band ultraviolet B
- Ultraviolet A
The lamps used for psoriasis or eczema of the hands and feet give out ultraviolet A. Prof Levell is seen here demonstrating the UVA hand unit.
What is ultraviolet?
Ultraviolet is given out by sunlight and is invisible. The wavelengths that we use for our patients aim to give the best possible improvement in the skin with the lowest risks.
What risks are there with ultraviolet?
Ultraviolet burns the skin if too much is given (sunburn). There are increased risks of skin cancer.
How big are the risks?
With one course of treatment per year this risks are small but increase with each course of treatment. The risks of a course of treatment seem to be similar to those of going on a summer holiday abroad. If you have fair skin, burn easily and have had sunburn as a child you are at increased risk of skin cancer from ultraviolet especially if skin cancer runs in the family. These risks mean that there are limits to the total amount of light treatment we can give.
What are the benefits?
Most people with psoriasis and eczema improve and many clear up with a course of treatment. The ultraviolet can be particularly good for dealing with extensive skin problems where it is not really practical using creams. This treatment isn’t a cure so many people do come back for further treatments every year.
How long will I stay clear if it works?
Nobody can tell. Some people have problems again within a few weeks, others can stay clear for years. On average after psoriasis has been cleared about 10% of people get problems again per month.
The ultraviolet A lamp is used with a lotion or tablet called psoralen. Psoralen chemicals are found in many plants and vegetables.