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Treating Your Skin Condition With Narrowband Ultraviolet B Radiation (NB-UVB) or PUVA Therapy (Phototherapy)
Your doctor will be referring you to the Phototherapy Unit for a course of narrowband UVB treatment or PUVA therapy for your skin condition.
This leaflet explains briefly about narrowband UVB (also known as TL- 01) and PUVA therapy. A more detailed booklet will be given to you at your phototherapy assessment before you start your treatment.
At this assessment the Phototherapy nurse specialist will discuss with you the benefits and risks of this treatment and answer any other questions you may have. The Phototherapy Unit will contact you to arrange an appointment for your phototherapy assessment.
What can narrowband UVB treat?
It is mainly used to treat psoriasis, but it can also be used for other skin conditions such as eczema, vitiligo, mycosis fungoides and polymorphic light eruption.
What does the narrowband UVB treatment involve?
The treatment is given by specially trained nurses in the Phototherapy Unit (opposite the Dermatology Department) at Ipswich Hospital. You will need to undress and stand in a phototherapy cabinet which contains fluorescent tubes that produce UVB rays.
Each machine is screened off to make sure your treatment is given in private.
The machine will be turned on and you will be given a calculated dose of narrowband UVB. This is then repeated two or three times per week over several months. You may feel a warm sensation during treatment, but it will not hurt.
Why should I have narrowband UVB treatment?
This treatment should help to improve your skin condition. It is often recommended if you have tried ointments and creams without success. However, it is sometimes used in combination with other treatments.
Most patients with psoriasis find their skin has improved after about 20 treatments and remains clear for three to four months or sometimes longer.
Compared to other forms of phototherapy, narrow band UVB has the following benefits:
- for many skin conditions you are more likely to have longer periods where your skin condition
- disappears or improves with narrowband UVB than with broadband UVB
- for many (though not all) conditions, narrowband UVB is as effective as PUVA but with fewer side effects
What is PUVA?
Ultraviolet (UV) rays are produced by the sun. Although they can’t be seen, they are an important part of sunlight and are grouped into different wavelengths: UVA, UVB and UVC. PUVA is a combination
of a drug called psoralen (P) and long wave ultraviolet radiation (UVA) – hence the term PUVA. UVA rays penetrate skin and cause it to darken or tan. UVB rays are mostly absorbed by the epidermis,
which is the top layer of our skin and are responsible for sunburn. UVC rays are absorbed by the Earth’s ozone layer, so they do not reach us.
What can PUVA treat?
It is mainly used to treat psoriasis, eczema, vitiligo, mycosis fungoides and polymorphic light eruption.
What does the PUVA treatment involve?
The psoralen medication can be taken as a tablet before you come to the Phototherapy Unit or it can be dissolved in bath water used by you at the Unit. This will be explained in more detail at your phototherapy assessment.
The UVA treatment is then given in the Unit by specially trained nurses. As with UVB treatment, you will stand in a cabinet containing fluorescent tubes but they produce UVA rays. Each machine is screened off to make sure your treatment is given in private.
The machine will be turned on and you will be given a calculated dose of PUVA. This will be repeated twice a week for tablet PUVA, or three treatments over a fortnight for bath PUVA, for two to three months.
Why should I have PUVA treatment?
Compared to other forms of phototherapy, PUVA has the following benefits:
- for many conditions you are more likely to have longer periods where your skin condition disappears or improves with PUVA than with narrowband UVB; and
- for a number of conditions (though not all) PUVA is more effective than narrowband UVB
When you attend your phototherapy assessment, you should let the nurse specialist know if you intend to have a holiday or you have other commitments that would interfere with a course of treatment.
If you do, your treatment may need to be put on hold until you are able to complete a full course without any interruption.
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