Phototherapy uses lightwaves to treat certain skin conditions. The skin is exposed to an ultraviolet (UV) light for a set amount of time. Phototherapy uses a man-made source of UV light. UV light also comes from the sun. When combined with a medication called psoralen, the procedure is known as psoralen UVA (PUVA).

Reasons for Procedure

UV light shuts down immune system cells in the skin. It can help in skin conditions that are caused by an overreaction of the immune system. Skin conditions that are treated with phototherapy include:
  • Psoriasis—a skin disorder that causes red, silvery, scaly patches on the skin
  • Atopic dermatitis—eczema, an itchy, red skin condition, or dermatitis due to allergies
  • Mycosis fungoides—a type of lymphoma confined to the skin
  • Vitiligo—a skin disorder where normal skin pigment is lost due to destruction of pigment-producing cells by the immune system
  • Lichen planus—an inflammatory skin condition
  • A rare form of Crigler-Najjar syndrome
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Possible Complications

The UV lights may negatively affect your skin in a number of ways, including:
  • Skin conditions could temporarily worsen
  • Itchy skin
  • Red skin due to exposure to the lights
  • Burning of the skin
PUVA treatment may also cause:
  • Nausea
  • Burning skin
  • Cataracts—lens of eye becomes cloudy, affecting vision
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
If you have received a great number of phototherapy treatments, you may be at risk for:
  • Premature aging of the skin, such as wrinkling and dryness
  • Age spots or freckles
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
  • Allergy to sunlight
  • Pregnancy or nursing
  • Medical conditions, such as skin cancer or systemic lupus erythematosus , that require you to avoid the sun
  • History of skin cancer
  • Liver disease—phototherapy may increase medication levels in the blood

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