Narrowband UVB light therapy is well-established within the NHS and medical profession globally as a 2nd line treatment effective in treating a number of skin complaints including Psoriasis, Vitiligo and Eczema. Narrowband UVB is considered to be one of the safest forms of Phototherapy.
As with all treatments for any condition there are risks and side effects that have been identified.
We would strongly advise that you discuss these risks and side effects with your doctor or dermatologist before commencing any light therapy.
The British Association of Dermatologists’ have produced a Patient Information Leaflet on Phototherapy which provides an introduction to Phototherapy, including Narrowband UVB light therapy and the risks and side effects;
To summarise, the common, short-term side effects of phototherapy include:
- Erythema – redness (mild sunburn like irritation).
- Dry skin.
- Some patients experience a prickling sensation of the skin following UVB. This can occur even on non-treatment days and may even be severe enough to discontinue treatment.
- Folliculitis – an inflammation of the hair roots. Folliculitis is usually mild and generally does not cause any discomfort.
- A sunlight-induced rash called polymorphic light eruption may develop whilst receiving ultraviolet light.
- Cold sores – if you are prone to these it is advisable to cover the area usually affected with sun block when having ultraviolet treatment.
- Blisters in areas of Psoriasis.
- Worsening of skin disease.
Potential long-term side effects of phototherapy include:
- Premature skin ageing.
- Skin cancer.
The risks associate with long-term side effects are related to the number of ultraviolet doses administered, and also to pre-existing risk factors for skin cancer in patients.
Please note however, the British Association of Dermatologists’ mention; “follow-up of patients treated with narrowband UVB has not as yet detected a skin cancer risk, it is possible that with long enough follow up of those who have had many exposures, a risk will be identified” and quantified.
They also note; “there are no limits to the numbers of treatments patients may have over their lifetime”.
Advice from the British Association of Dermatologists recommends that patients having more than 500 UVB treatments would require annual skin checks to look for skin cancer.
Relating this advice in the context of Home Narrowband UVB light therapy, 500 treatments would equate to around 3 ½ years of continuous sessions every 2-3 days. In practice, you would administer sessions every 2-3 days continuously for no more than a matter of months. This practice follows the same treatment regime that you would experience in a Hospital or Care Centre.
Practically, we recommend that patients follow the same regime recommended by most doctors and dermatologists;
- Exposure to the Narrowband UVB light 2-3 times per week for between 6 & 12 consecutive weeks.
- Ceasing treatment when the condition has been reduced to a tolerable level (for most people with 4-8 weeks).
- Only recommencing treatment when the condition returns.
- Consulting a doctor or dermatologist regularly (at least once a year) for advice on your condition and to check for skin cancer.