Although UVB rays can cause sunburns and skin cancer, they can actually be beneficial to people who suffer from psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune disease that causes red, itchy, scaly patches on the skin.
Currently, a study is underway to figure out exactly how narrowband UVB treatment, which typically involves standing in a unit lined with fluorescent tubes, helps reduce psoriasis symptoms. Researchers from the Laboratory for Investigative Dermatology at Rockefeller University suspect that the light destroys the T cells that contribute to the condition’s inflammation by targeting immune-system proteins called cytokines. This study could confirm their hunch, and possibly lead to additional types of psoriasis therapy.
UVB therapy is recommended after ointments and immunosuppressive drugs either don’t work or cause unwanted side effects. Usually, patients are required to receive the therapy at the hospital, but a Dutch study has found that home-based UVB therapy is just as effective and often less of a burden.
Does this mean psoriasis sufferers should self-treat by spending more time in the sun or tanning salon? No. UVB rays are still potentially dangerous and require medical management. Additionally, the inevitable exposure to UVA rays can contribute to premature aging and cancer of the skin. If your psoriasis isn’t responding to topical and oral treatments, ask your dermatologist if UVB treatment is a suitable next step.
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