Staying Safe: How to Avoid Phototherapy Burns

As effective as phototherapy can be for people with psoriasis, keep in mind that this treatment takes time. Patience and consistent use are both key to any skin clearing you will experience by using ultraviolet light treatment, says Dr. Stefan Weiss, medical director of the Weiss Institute, a clinical research center and private dermatology practice in Boca Raton, Fla.

Proper use and giving light therapy time to work also ensure you won't burn your skin in the process, experts say.

A burning issueKeep in mind the following to prevent your skin from burning:

  • Protect areas of the body not affected by psoriasis. "If there's no psoriasis in a particular area, such as your genitals or breasts, you need to cover it. The same goes for your face," says Dr. Raymond Dean, a Traverse City, Mich. dermatologist. "It could be as easy as putting a towel on your head or using a pillow case to cover your face during the treatment."
  • Certain medications, herbal supplements and topical ingredients can increase sensitivity to light, so it's important to tell your doctor about all medications, treatments and dietary supplements (including vitamins and herbal medicines) you are taking.
  • Wear protective eyewear. Home units come with protective eyewear, and if you're using light therapy at your doctor's office, protective eyewear should be offered.
  • Avoid exposure to natural sunlight on UV treatment days. The combination of the treatment light and natural UV light can result in overexposure.
  • If you're using a home unit, follow your doctor's orders for your treatment's frequency and length of time. You likely will feel anxious about increasing your time using the light box or wonder about doing it more often, but sticking with your prescribed program will help ensure your skin doesn't burn.
  • Look for safety features in home UV equipment, such as key switches or disabling keys that render the unit inoperative when you are not around. Also check for safety guards or grids over the lamps, evaluate the durability and stability of any home equipment and find out if the manufacturer sells replacement lamps.

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