All You Wanted to Ask about Phototherapy for Eczema

Eczema is a skin disease of a nerve-allergic nature that causes rashes and severe itching. The flow of the disease is recurrent and prolonged and includes flare-ups and remission.

Over 31 million Americans have symptoms of eczema and these numbers are rising each year. Two out of three people with eczema claim that their disease interferes with their job and domestic chores.

More About Eczema Skin Condition

The etiology of eczema hasn’t been clarified yet. This disease affects people no matter their age, gender, or race. Eczema can either appear locally in the areas of former irritations or on the entire skin surface.

Among the recognized triggers of eczema, there are genetic predisposition and provoking factors. The genetic predisposition depends on a number of disorders like obesity, gastrointestinal diseases, arthritis, bronchial asthma, and endocrine disorders. Under the main provoking factors, doctors define:

  • dry skin;
  • cigarette smoking;
  • poor quality food;
  • alcohol abuse;
  • stress;
  • hot climate and sweating;
  • chemical irritants (e.g. soaps and household cleaners);
  • allergens (like seasonal pollen, pet dander, and dust mites);
  • infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus (“staph”), molluscum virus, or herpes virus, etc.

Eczema affects people differently and a person’s triggers might not be the same as another’s. According to the classification, 6 different eczema types are available and require special treatment.

How to Diagnose and Treat Eczema

Only a qualified dermatologist can diagnose and prescribe a treatment for eczema based on the clinical picture. This disease, if treated incorrectly, can cause discomfort and impact the quality of the patient’s life. Eczema should become the complication of such diseases as streptodermia or psoriasis. The treatment for eczema is based on:

  • the nature of the skin lesions;
  • the severity of the disease;
  • the functioning peculiarities of the patient’s internal organs.

It’s necessary to eliminate contact with the allergen that has caused such a skin reaction. The patient should also normalize the function of the digestive tract, and exclude spices, chocolate, tomatoes, and citrus fruits from their diet.

Patients with eczema are usually recommended to moisturize their skin enough and apply anti-inflammatory ointments or hormone creams. However, there are certain groups of patients for whom using ointments or creams isn’t enough to reduce eczema flare-ups. In such cases, light therapy for eczema treatment is essential.

What are the Common Types of Eczema Successfully Treated by Phototherapy?

Currently, there is no generally recognized classification of eczema types. It is most often categorized by the localization on the skin and the presence of external and internal provoking factors.

The National Eczema Association determines the following types of eczema: atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, stasis, seborrheic dermatitis, dyshidrotic and nummular eczema.


Atopic dermatitis

It is a chronic and inflammatory form of eczema that usually occurs in early childhood and may recur in adulthood. Atopic dermatitis (AD) usually emerges when the immune system gets over the top in reply to internal or external irritants. It usually affects the following body parts: face, arms and hands, elbows, legs, back of the knees, shoulders, and feet.

If the skin condition is caused by irritants (soap, synthetic clothes, chemicals, etc.), the skin becomes reddish and irritated right after contact with provocative agents. Dermatologists prescribe a diet, getting rid of AD irritants, and phototherapy to heal the skin.

Dyshidrotic eczema

This type of eczema is characterized by the formation of itchy bubbles on the skin with a transparent liquid. The main causes of dyshidrotic eczema include chronic infections in the body, endocrinologic disorders, and contact with toxic substances of organic and inorganic origin.

The most dyshidrotic eczema-vulnerable body parts are the palms, fingers, and hands. To reduce painful sensations wet cold compresses are used. A doctor has to detect allergic triggers – these agents should be excluded from everyday use. Dermatologists recommend UV-light sessions to stop severe itching and heal the skin.


Contact dermatitis

It is an inflammation of the skin caused by direct contact with a specific substance. The rashes occur merely on the part of the body that has been in contact with the substance. Such type of eczema causes severe itching. In most cases, hands are attacked by two forms of contact dermatitis: irritant contact and allergic contact. Allergy-triggering substances should be determined and further avoided by the patient.

Contact dermatitis may be provoked by industrial chemicals, solvents, or skincare products that contain alcohol (but not cetyl alcohol). Moisturizers can reduce pain sensation and itchiness. The most efficient way to treat contact dermatitis caused both by irritant and allergic triggers is phototherapy. The session duration is specified by the dermatologist after the examination of the patient’s skin.


Stasis dermatitis

This skin condition is also known as varicose eczema. It is a type of chronic skin disease that affects the legs. This kind of eczema leads to skin changes that occur in the lower parts of the legs as a result of blood stasis due to insufficient venous outflow. The severe form of varicose eczema can cause oozing, scars where ulcers were healed, infection, and cellulitis.

Skin weeping and crusting can be observed in this case as well. Besides compressive stocking and compresses, phototherapy is recommended to treat this type of eczema. UV-light sessions are combined with physical exercises and supplementary healing measures.


Nummular eczema

It is also called discoid eczema and occurs in the form of coin- or disc-shaped spots on the skin that can be way harder to treat than other forms of eczema. Nummular eczema most commonly affects middle-aged and elderly people. Dermatologists state that men suffer from this skin condition more often than female patients.

This disease is often associated with dry skin, especially in the cold season. The coin-shaped marks often appear on the shoulders, legs, heaps, and hands. Damaged skin should be protected from any kind of injuries. The risk of infection is very high? so the best way to stop rashy processes caused by nummular eczema and sterilize damaged skin is to start phototherapy treatment.


Seborrheic dermatitis

This type of disease affects those parts of the scalp and body where the sebaceous glands are produced. Seborrheic eczema is caused by yeast-like fungi of the species Malassezia. These yeast-like lipophilic fungi are a constant component of normal skin microflora in more than 78% of the population.

In most cases, seborrheic dermatitis affects the scalp. But other body parts can also be affected by this disorder, for instance, the chest, groin, and eyebrows.

Dermatologists diagnose the type of eczema and dermatitis with the help of a comprehensive examination that includes derma body inspection, medical history review, and biopsy for chronic forms or complicated cases of the disorder.

The diagnosis is necessary to prescribe the appropriate treatment. Phototherapy is used for the healing of all eczema and dermatitis forms. The duration of UV-light sessions and longevity of courses depend on the type of eczema.


How Does Phototherapy Treat Eczema?

Ultraviolet (UV) light is used as an effective treatment for moderate-to-severe eczema by all doctors worldwide. UV rays help keep the immune system safe from overreacting and slow down cell division.

The research conducted by the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care shows that light therapy can effectively suppress such symptoms of eczema as inflammation and itching.

The National Eczema Association also reports the positive impact of UV light on eczema treatment claiming that 70 percent of patients see massive improvements in their skin conditions.

Among different types of phototherapy for eczema, the narrow-band UVB treatment with wavelengths of 311nm is considered to be the most efficient and safest way to eliminate eczema eruptions. With narrow-band phototherapy for eczema damage, patients can now get rid of greasy hormonal ointments that can cause be risky in the case of continuous usage.

Can I Use Light Therapy for Treating Eczema at Home?

Previously, patients had to visit medical institutions to undergo phototherapy in special cabins with fluorescent lamps that emit light of a certain wavelength. Today there are newly-designed lamps that allow applying light therapy for eczema at home any time you need it.

Using these lamps, patients can treat individual parts of their body like the head or hand instead of irradiating the whole body.

UVB lamps help save patients time and money to a great extent. Thus, the annual economic burden of eczema seizes $5.3 billion in the USA. One session of phototherapy for eczema costs about $150. Meanwhile, patients can pay around $400 once for home-designed lamps and use them a number of times.

What Dose of the UV Light Should I Start With?

To help the skin get used to the radiation, patients start with a small dose of UV light and increase it steadily. The doctor calculates the initial dose considering the individual response of the patient to the UV light and their skin type according to the Fitzpatrick skin classification.

The first session of light therapy for eczema usually lasts less than a minute. The sessions can take up to several minutes. Don’t start your UV treatment for eczema with a high dose of ultraviolet light. Even though narrow-band phototherapy is generally safe for your body, the large and uncontrolled amount of UV light can cause burns and irritation.

The Safety Measures to Remember

Phototherapy can be home-based but it is necessary to take the main recommendations into account to run risk-free sessions at home:

  • You shouldn’t put on lotion or moisturizer a day (24 hours) prior to the procedure.
  • Avoid medicines that make you more sensitive to ultraviolet light.
  • You shouldn’t use sunbeds or sunbathe.
  • Wear safety glasses during each treatment session (usually they are provided by the company that sells UVB lamps).
  • You should cover the parts of your body on which you’re not applying phototherapy with sunscreen.
  • Be sure to keep your eyes closed during the entire session when you’re treating your eyelids.
  • Keep the correct distance from the UVB lamp throughout the session. Do everything for efficient treatment according to the phototherapy device instructions.

After the procedure do not forget to apply a scentless moisturizer such as Eucerin, Aquaphor, or Cetaphil at least once a day to avoid skin dryness. You may need to see your dermatologist or ophthalmologist to receive an additional consultation after the treatment.

How Many Procedures Do I Need to Take?

The duration of eczema treatment refers to the overall health condition of a particular patient and the severity of the disease. Typically, UV treatment for eczema lasts between 4 weeks and 3 months with 2-6 sessions per week. Once remission occurs, a patient may need to take one procedure per week to maintain the obtained results.

When Will I See the Effect of The Treatment?

The results after the phototherapy for eczema are quite individual. On average, patients notice the first visible results from light therapy within 1 month. It may take longer for the severe forms of the disease because phototherapy has an accumulative result.

Nevertheless, session after session most patients feel better and notice the positive effects that phototherapy brings. Combining both convenience and safety, home light therapy is an efficient way to eradicate the side effects of eczema without distracting you from your job or daily routine. Moreover, it helps you save your money for something more pleasant. Don’t waste time, improve your life right away!