Eczema is a noncontagious skin condition that, while not life-threatening, can be embarrassing and difficult to manage. This condition is fairly common and can be treated a number of ways, including via phototherapy.
What Is Eczema?
"Eczema" is a catchall term for different skin inflammation conditions. The most common form of eczema is atopic dermatitis, which is a recurring, itchy rash. According to EczemaNet, roughly 10% to 20% of the world is affected by atopic dermatitis at some point during their childhood.
Eczema is an abnormal response of the immune system that causes skin inflammation, accompanied by itchiness. When it triggers, eczema can be a vicious cycle, because scratching the itchy skin makes the protective top layer fall off, which makes the skin more inflamed. Then it becomes more itchy.
What Does Eczema Look Like?
Although eczema varies from person to person, it is generally characterized by dry, red patchy skin. If the skin is very dry, it can look scaly. Occasionally there is a mild to severe rash, and partially due to this rash the skin can take on a bubbled and "oozy" look.
Light Therapy for Eczema
One of the treatments for eczema as recommended by the American Academy of Family Physicians is photo or light therapy. Phototherapy uses controlled doses of ultraviolet A and B rays to penetrate deep into the skin, kill bacterial growth and slow the growth of affected skin cells. This therapy uses a combination of UVA and UVB rays, or narrow-band UVB. Occasionally, a topical or oral chemical and UVA are combined for treatment (photochemotherapy) if other light therapy does not work.
Tanning Your Way To Healthy Skin
While your doctor may provide specific instructions about what type of light therapy procedure you will follow, for mild to mid-range eczema, a tanning bed uses a combination of UVA and UVB light bulbs to mimic the effects of the sun. Although you may need more of one and less of another, some tanning beds allow you to adjust the levels of UVA and UVB. If this method of light therapy works, your doctor may prescribe a few sessions at the tanning salon to help cure your eczema.
Based on what your doctor prescribes, you may need a few minutes of controlled UV exposure two to three times a week for several months. There is no cure for eczema, and the amount of time your treatment takes to control your eczema will vary based on severity and response.
The New Zealand Dermatological Society warns that light therapy, depending on how much or often you need it, may not be suitable for some people, including those with extremely fair skin (the UV rays can burn before doing any good) and young children (because they may not be able to sit still or use corrective eye wear properly).
UV rays are dangerous, and overexposure is carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to humans, so light therapy should be performed very carefully. If you are undergoing tanning sessions to help your eczema, you should also be moisturizing your skin frequently (to prevent further dryness) and wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher when not in a tanning bed.