Using Light Therapy to Treat Your Eczema

Dry, itchy patches of skin. Redness and swelling. Painful skin cracks. Itchiness that gets worse at night. These symptoms are telltale signs of atopic dermatitis, more commonly known as eczema.

Eczema, which occurs because of problems with the immune system, affects more than 31 million children and adults in the United States. It can make life miserable, but professional care at Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry can help. Oswald Mikell, MD, and our team specialize in diagnosing and treating eczema in people of all ages.

Topical creams, corticosteroid medications, and at-home care can make a difference for many eczema sufferers. However, if you still have painful patches of itchy skin after trying other treatments, Dr. Mikell might recommend using light therapy to treat your eczema.

How light therapy treats eczema

Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) light. Excessive sun exposure is a leading cause of sun damage and skin cancer, but sunlight can also reduce symptoms of certain skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis.

Light therapy is FDA-approved for eczema, and it combines the benefits of natural sunlight with medical expertise. It’s different from simply spending time in the sun, because it involves controlled exposure to specific wavelengths of UV light.  

Also called phototherapy, light therapy primarily uses UVB wavelengths. Your patches of eczema are exposed to the light for a specific time — from a few seconds to a few minutes — and the UVB rays work to reduce inflammation and extra skin cell buildup on your skin.

What to expect with light therapy for eczema

Eczema symptoms and triggers vary from person to person, and there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment. If you’re diagnosed with eczema, Dr. Mikell may first recommend moisturizing regularly and using gentle cleansers. He may also recommend prescription treatments, such as topical corticosteroid creams or oral corticosteroids.

However, if you have widespread eczema across your body or if other treatments haven’t been effective, Dr. Mikell may suggest light therapy. Light therapy requires a series of consistent sessions to be effective, but it could offer relief from bothersome eczema symptoms.

Light therapy is quick and pain-free. Dr. Mikell may use a handheld device for small patches or a whole-body machine to treat larger areas. During treatment, he directs a beam of light at your skin, and it starts working to relieve your symptoms.

You should expect to have 2-3 light therapy sessions every week for 1-2 months. Dr. Mikell will monitor your condition throughout treatment, adjusting your sessions as needed. Once you start seeing an improvement in your skin, he may gradually reduce the frequency of your sessions.

Since light therapy involves UV light, it’s not without risks. It may not be a good option for people who find that their eczema gets worse with sun exposure, and it could increase your risk of developing skin cancer. After talking with Dr. Mikell, he can let you know if this treatment is right for you.

If you suffer from eczema symptoms, light therapy may be able to help you. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry today.

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