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Eczema health centre

Treatment with ultraviolet light

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

This information is for people who have eczema. It tells you about treatment with ultraviolet light, a treatment used for eczema.

Does it work?

We haven't looked at the research on this treatment in the same detail as the other treatments on our site. But we've included some information about it here in case you are interested.

What is it?

Doctors started to use ultraviolet light to treat eczema after they noticed that some people who had eczema got better in the summer. Also, we know that ultraviolet light helps people with psoriasis, another kind of skin condition.

Ultraviolet light can be used on its own or with a drug called psoralen. This drug makes skin more sensitive to ultraviolet light, so the light treatment is more likely to work. The combination is known as PUVA, or psoralen plus UVA. Psoralen comes as tablets or as a solution that you add to the bath.

Light treatments are only used if usual treatments like steroid creams haven't worked. You will need to see a specialist (a dermatologist).

How can it help?

We found some research that shows that ultraviolet light relieves eczema in many people. But most of the studies we found were very small. Also, they only looked at the effects of light treatment given for a very short time. We found no studies that looked at PUVA.

Can it be harmful?

We don't know what the risks are if people who have eczema get this kind of treatment for many years. However, we know that ultraviolet light can burn the skin. And repeated exposure to ultraviolet light is linked to skin cancer, especially in young people. [50] If skin cancer runs in your family, treatment with ultraviolet light may be too risky. Talk to your doctor about the risk.

Citations

For references related to Eczema click here.
Last Updated: June 20, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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