Although UVB rays can cause sunburn and skin cancer, they can also be beneficial for people suffering from psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune disease that causes red patches, itching and dander on the skin.
A study is underway to determine precisely how narrowband UVB treatment, which usually involves staying in a bordered unit fluorescent tubes, helps reduce symptoms of psoriasis. Researchers at the Investigative Dermatology Laboratory at Rockefeller University suspect that light is destroying the T cells that contribute to the inflammation of the disease by targeting proteins in the immune system called cytokines. This study could confirm their intuition and possibly lead to other types of treatment for psoriasis.
Treatment with UVB is recommended after the ointments and immunosuppressive drugs do not work or cause undesirable side effects. Usually patients have to be treated in the hospital, but a Dutch study has shown that home UVB treatment is just as effective and often less painful.
Does this mean that people with psoriasis should self-medicate by spending more time in the sun or in a tanning salon? UVB rays are still potentially dangerous and require medical attention. In addition, the inevitable exposure to UVA rays can contribute to premature aging and skin cancer. If your psoriasis does not respond to topical and oral treatments, ask your dermatologist if treatment with UVB is an appropriate step.