By Maureen Williams, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (July 2, 2009)—Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that typically responds well to ultraviolet B light therapy—but traveling to a clinic two to three times per week for light therapy can hinder people from getting and sticking with treatment. Fortunately, a new study found that having light therapy at home is as safe and effective as a clinic.
The skin lesions that characterize psoriasis are red patches covered by silvery scales, often on the elbows and knees. Topical and oral medications are usually the first lines of treatment, while ultraviolet B light therapy is often reserved for people who do not improve with other therapies or whose lesions are widespread on their bodies.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, included 196 people with psoriasis whose dermatologists had recommended light therapy. Half were assigned to have clinic-based ultraviolet B light therapy and the other half were assigned to receive light-therapy devices, along with thorough instruction, for use at home. The intensity and frequency of treatments were decided on an individual basis by the prescribing dermatologist, and skin changes were monitored by an independent research nurse who did not know the treatment assignments.
By measuring the area and severity of psoriasis lesions at the beginning, midpoint, and end of treatment (46 treatment sessions at most), the researchers showed that home-based light therapy was as effective as clinic-based therapy.
Adverse side effects such as redness, burning sensation, and blistering were no more common among people using the home light therapy devices compared with those going to the clinic for therapy. Quality-of-life ratings improved similarly in both groups, but the people who had home-based light therapy rated their satisfaction with treatment higher and the burden of treatment lower than those who had clinic-based light therapy.
Concerns about home treatment
Light-therapy devices for home use have been available since the 1970s but are infrequently recommended due to commonly held concerns that unsupervised home treatment is not as safe or effective as supervised treatment. This is the first controlled trial to compare the two treatment settings.
“In contrast to prevailing opinion, ultraviolet B phototherapy used at home is equally effective for treating psoriasis as ultraviolet B phototherapy administered in an outpatient setting and implies no additional safety hazards,” the study’s authors concluded. “Furthermore, ultraviolet B phototherapy at home poses a lower burden, is better appreciated, and gives similar improvements in quality of life.”
Other home treatments
Whether or not they are eligible for ultraviolet B therapy, people with psoriasis can often reduce their symptoms through the following measures:
• Identify and eliminate reactive foods. A gluten-free diet has been found to help some people with psoriasis.
• Develop a relaxation practice. In one study, people practicing mindfulness meditation to reduce stress benefited more quickly from light therapy than people who did not meditate.
• Prevent the skin from drying out by using oil in your bath water and applying heavy moisturizers after bathing.
• Avoid using irritating soaps and cosmetics.
• Consider supplementing with fish oil and using topical preparations of herbs such as aloe and Oregon grape.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice on Cortes Island in British Columbia, Canada, and has done extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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