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Some skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, general itchy skin, other dermatitis can be treated using ultraviolet light under medical supervision. This is called phototherapy or light therapy.

Special phototherapy lights that emit only specified wavelengths of light are used in this procedure. You will need to attend sessions 2-3 times per week. Depending on your own situation you may need from 15-30 treatments.

What happens during phototherapy?

The duration and type of phototherapy you receive will depend on your own skin condition. You may be asked to take medication, use cream or bathe using a solution that contains psoralen – a chemical that makes your skin more sensitive to light.

A test dose of light may be applied to your skin to confirm the correct starting light dose.

If a large area of skin is being treated you may be asked to remove all your clothing except your underpants. We will give you goggles to protect your eyes. We may ask you to put sunscreen on some areas of skin.

If you are having treatment on smaller areas such as just hands or your feet a smaller light unit may be used allowing you to sit with just those areas exposed.

Your first session may be very short – lasting less than one minute. The length of your sessions will increase gradually depending on how your skin responds to the treatment.

Going home after phototherapy

You will be able to go home shortly after each session. You will need to protect your skin from excessive exposure to sunlight. Your consultant may recommend:

  • Limiting foods such as celery, carrots, citrus fruits, parsnips, parsley and carrots. These all contain psoralen
  • Use extra care when out in the sun. Protective clothing, a hat and sunglasses should be worn.
  • Do not use sunbeds
  • Do not cut your hair while under treatment. A haircut may expose skin that was covered when you started your sessions
  • Avoid using creams, lotions or other products that are perfumed

Depending on your own condition, phototherapy may cause your skin disorder symptoms to temporarily increase. Be sure and discuss any concerns you have with our healthcare team.

Other complications from phototherapy may include:

  • Skin redness and discomfort (similar to sunburn)
  • Dry, itchy or flaking skin
  • Skin rash
  • Blistering skin (psoriasis areas)
  • Cold sores (if you have a history of these)
  • Premature aging of your skin
  • Skin cancer (rare)
  • Reaction to the psoralen medication

Why not print this treatment page so that you can discuss any concerns you have with your consultant?

Ways to pay

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