UV Phototherapy and the light spectrum

An introduction to UV Phototherapy and the light spectrum

UV Phototherapy involves exposing the skin to specific wavelengths of light, which have a therapeutic effect on disorders such as Psoriasis, Vitiligo and Eczema. 

What is UV light and why does it help with Psoriasis, Vitiligo and Eczema? 

UV light is a component of Sunlight and heals the skin by affecting a number of biological processes associated with these skin conditions.

These disorders are recognised as immune mediated conditions. This is where the body’s immune system does not function “normally” and becomes overactive.

  • For example, in the case of Psoriasis, the normal skin cell life cycle is accelerated from 4 weeks to 3-4 days resulting in immature skin cells being pushed to the surface of the skin.
  • With Vitiligo, the immune system is similarly triggered into overactivity, which causes the destruction of melanocyte cells. Destruction of these cells results in the depigmentation of the skin.

UV Phototherapy has a mediating effect on the immune response in the skin, moderating the immune system response to “normal levels” resulting in reduced inflammation, a return to “normal” pigmentation, reduced itchiness and scaling

A bit of History

 The earliest documentation on Phototherapy dates back to Ancient Egypt where Heliotherapy was described as a treatment regime for Vitiligo.

“Heliotherapy” was described in the “Papyrus Ebers” which are one of the oldest and most important medical documents of ancient Egypt (dated circa 1500 BC). One treatment regime for Vitiligo, described in these papers, consisted of ingestion of a boiled extract derived from Ammi majus, a weed growing in the Nile Delta, followed by exposure to the Egyptian sun.

In one of India’s sacred books Atharva Veda compiled between 1200 BC– 1000 BC it is described how the seeds of the plant Psoralea corylifolia can be used for “leucoderma” (Vitiligo).

Later, around 1220 AD, an Arab physician, Ibn al-Bitar, born in Malaga, Anadlucia in Spain, described the same treatment in his book Kitab Al-jami li-mufradat al-adwiya wa al-aghdhiya (The book of medicinal and nutritional terms), one of the earliest pharmaceutical encyclopaedias.

These crude treatments were the very earliest forms of a Light therapy that we would recognise today, PUVA.

PUVA is a relatively modern treatment for psoriasis & vitiligo.

Although somewhat depreciated against Narrowband UVB therapy, PUVA is still recognised & prescribed for phototherapy treatment today. The P in PUVA stands for Psoralen. Psoralen is an organic compound that can be derived from the Ammi majus plant mentioned in the ancient treatments. Modern research has enabled us to understand the mechanism which makes Psoralen effective in these therapies. Essentially, Psoralen acts as a photosensitizer, making the skin more sensitive to light and its therapeutic effect on conditions such as Psoriasis & Vitiligo.

Why’s the History important?

So, it’s obvious that the healing power of Sunlight has been recognised from very early times and as a consequence this idea is ingrained in our psyche. But, it is only relatively recently (1970s -1980s) that medical research has established the curative element within Sunlight that makes it so therapeutic.

To recap, 

  • From ancient times we understood that Sunlight had therapeutic properties
  • That sensitising the skin to Sunlight enhanced those therapeutic properties
  • Within the last 50 years scientific and medical research has established the element within Sunlight which is responsible for it’s curative effects. This research has been developed into an extremely effective therapy that is recognised globally – Narrowband UVB Phototherapy.
To summarise,

We’ve always understood that Sunlight is good for certain skin conditions, but today, with the advancements in medical science, Clinicians accept that n-UVB Phototherapy can be way, way better.

If you are interested in just how much more effective, check our information page on “Is Sunlight good for Psoriasis?”


UV and Sunlight

 Sunlight is energy radiated from the Sun. This Solar radiation spectrum is  comprised of three major parts,
  •  Visible Light – 42%to 43%
  • Infrared Radiation – heat -52% to 55%
  • UltraViolet Light -3% to 5%
In this context you can see how little UV light you receive from Sunlight.

Further, Within the UV light spectrum that reaches us 95% (of the 3% of Sunlight that is UV radiation) is UVA with only 5% UVB.

As UVB is the therapeutic component in Phototherapy treatment which effects the improvements in the skin, you can understand that the benefits of receiving UVB from Sunlight are massively outweighed by exposure to UVB lamps which generate over 68% of light at the optimum therapeutic wavelength of 311nm – This is what n-UVB Phototherapy provides. This is the treatment that you would receive in any Hospital or Dermatology centre Worldwide.   

Narrowing the Spectrum


Modern medical science has determined that the most therapeutic light for skin conditions such as Psoriasis and Vitiligo is UVB light at a very specific wavelength (311nm).Light emitted at this wavelength is described as Narrowband UVB or n-UVB light. 

Philips manufacture a range of tubes which are designed specifically for medical use to emit light concentrated at this wavelength (311nm). These tubes, (Philips Narrowband TL01 tubes) are the tubes that are used world-wide in the medical profession and are the only lamps fitted by our manufacturers in our units.


Narrowband UV Phototherapy

Narrowband UVB light therapy involves exposing the skin to the light for very short periods of time. Typically, this exposure will be between 30 seconds and a maximum of 4 minutes, 2-3 times each week, typically seeing results within 4 to 8 weeks.

Please note these timings & timescales carefully.  UV Phototherapy is extremely effective, but only if you stick to the treatment regime rigorously.

In a Hospital or Dermatology unit you will step into a cabinet which surrounds your body with n-UVB lamps. Your body will be exposed to the light for a number of seconds. You will then be required to return to the hospital repeat this exposure, in line with your treatment schedule, every 2-3 days for 4-8 weeks.

As stated, it is critical for you to follow the light exposure schedule rigorously in order for the treatment to work. Due to limited resources, some Authorities will, understandably, return you to the waiting list if you miss a number of your appointments.

This is where UVB light therapy at home comes into its own.

Our company have been helping people to access n-UVB phototherapy in their own homes since 1996. Even though our business has moved on to an e-commerce platform, we recognise that most of our customers value the personal service that buying on the internet lacks. We also recognise that many of our customers value our experience and look to us for advice.

We pride ourselves on a personal service and are more than happy if you  or your dermatologist wish to contact to discuss our products.

Even if you have researched n-UVB thoroughly, (as most of our customers do). Please do get in touch,  we may be able to offer some further insights that you may not have considered ….. and if nothing else, some empathy.

To get an idea of how we treat our customers, take a look at the independent Google reviews on our Google Business Page

  • We are available via phone  on 01925 694280 or email  sales@treatpsoriasistl01uvblamps.co.uk to discuss any questions you may have.
  • We are happy to talk to your Dermatologist or Doctor if you prefer.
  • Our aim is to offer a personalised service to try and offer advice on the most appropriate device for your condition.
  • Please be patient with us, if your phone call is not answered, we are most likely speaking with another customer (most of our calls are quite lengthy).
  • We guarantee that if you leave us a message with your phone number or email us, we will contact you as soon as possible.

If you require any further information then please do not hesitate to get in contact with us and we shall be more than happy to answer any questions. Office hours are 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday (excludes Bank Holidays). The office is closed on Saturdays but we will still try to answer your call up to 1pm. Outside these hours you can leave a message and we will get back to you the next working day.

Our range of devices are designed specifically to offer you the most appropriate treatment based on the severity of your condition. From hand held devices that will treat small localised areas, through to 6ft units delivering hospital style full body coverage.

Treatment of your condition when it flares, in the privacy and comfort of your own home.

Our team offer Pre-sales advice and Post-sales support to assist your choice of the right product for your condition and ensure timely delivery.