At our Rejuvenation clinic, usually on Thursdays and Fridays, my team and I get assigned to work in the hallway by the UV light therapy booths. This is typically because my good friend the 7-foot-tall human, Dr. Dhaliwal, shows up far earlier and takes the highly coveted workstation at the back of the clinic. It always amazes me to watch the constant flow of patients in and out of our UV booths. I prescribe it as therapy often enough, but the number of patients coming in to gain the benefits every single day is quite amazing.
People are often surprised when I suggest UVB treatments for soothing skin conditions. We hear about injections, creams, and pills as solutions all the time, but the words “tanning booths” are often associated with doing the exact opposite. But while the UVB therapy booths may look similar, they are not the same. In fact, they can be very effective for treating skin treatments.
What conditions can we use UVB light therapy for?
Whether moderate or severe, UVB is commonly used as light therapy for psoriasis as well as eczema. We also use it for vitiligo patients as well as for rarer conditions like prurigo nodularis and mycosis fungoides (cutaneous T-cell lymphoma). Here at our dermatology clinic in Calgary where generalized itchiness (pruritus) is a common issue, UVB can be a saving grace. We can even use it as a preventative treatment for people who have negative reactions to sunlight like Polymorphous Light Eruptions.
What does UVB light therapy do?
The effects of UVB can be broken down into three things. Using a wavelength of 311- 313 nm, the treatment affects nuclear DNA, specific protein-coding genes, and the immune system in ways that create downstream products. In short, it helps our cells make treatments to the conditions listed above, while still being safely kept in check by our own body’s fantastic defense system.
What can you expect therapy to be like?
It’s a simple process that takes a small commitment of time 2-3 times a week. The treatment starts at 30 seconds per session and increases gradually and safely up to a maximum of 4 minutes. The room is private so you can disrobe to the level needed to expose the affected area to the lights. Though, on a Thursday or Friday, if you listen very hard, you may hear me through the door sharing old, tired dad jokes and telling the nurses my favorite fun facts about owls.
Are there UVB light therapy side effects?
In a small number of patients there can be cases of redness, dryness, itchiness, and blistering. It can also trigger cold sores, though this can be easily prevented if you let us know about your skin history beforehand. While the risks of skin cancer are still being studied, the consensus among doctors is that the benefits far outweigh the risks, but to be safe patients should still be monitored. That being said, patients with a history of skin cancer shouldn’t use UVB therapy until more data is available.
If you have any of the conditions above and are interested in this treatment plan, you are more than welcome to come down to the clinic and see if it is right for you. You can book with me or any of our capable physicians, including the 7-foot giant Dr. Dhaliwal, who steals my workstation, will pay for it, and hopefully doesn’t read these blogs!