Psoriasis is a chronic condition triggered by abnormal accelerations in the life cycle of affected skin. These accelerations create a buildup of dead skin cells and promote the formation of thick scales and red patches that may itch or cause significant pain. In some cases, the light used in commercial tanning beds may ease psoriasis symptoms. However, the risks of tanning far outweigh any boosts in psoriasis relief.
Understanding Light Therapy
Light therapy that uses energy from the ultraviolet B, or UVB, spectrum is an effective treatment for psoriasis symptoms, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. UVB achieves its effects by penetrating your skin’s surface and slowing the growth of cells affected by psoriasis-related changes. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may receive UVB treatments under controlled conditions in a doctor’s office or at home under a doctor’s explicit treatment guidelines. In some cases, you may use devices designed to produce UVB light; in others, you may use specific doses of sunlight, which contains UVB energy.
If you do not have access to standard light therapy, your doctor may recommend visiting a tanning salon as stopgap or last-ditch treatment for psoriasis, the National Psoriasis Foundation reports. However, commercial tanning beds produce only a small amount of UVB energy, mixed in with much larger amounts of a separate form of ultraviolet energy called ultraviolet A, or UVA. When compared to UVB, UVA provides inferior benefit for the treatment of psoriasis symptoms.
If you are 35 or younger, use of tanning beds or sunlamps can increase your risks for the development of potentially life-threatening skin cancer by roughly 75 percent, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, or AAD. In addition, energy from these sources can lead to premature skin aging. Due to the high risks and relatively low benefits associated with tanning, the National Psoriasis Foundation does not support tanning as a psoriasis treatment. Outside of the context of psoriasis, the AAD, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all discourage the use of tanning beds or sunlamps under any circumstances.
In addition to traditional UVB treatments and sunlight, the Mayo Clinic lists several additional light-based therapies for psoriasis. In narrowband UVB treatment, doctors use a smaller part of the UVB spectrum to achieve more effective treatment results. In excimer laser treatment, doctors focus even narrower wavelengths of UVB light at your psoriasis-affected skin, creating a targeted reduction in inflammation and abnormal skin cells. In photochemotherapy, also known as PUVA, doctors use a skin-sensitizing medication called psoralen to increase the effectiveness of light from the UVA spectrum. Your doctor may resort to PUVA if your psoriasis is particularly severe.
Even with approved treatments, controlling psoriasis can be difficult, the Mayo Clinic reports. In some cases, the seriousness of your symptoms may change in ways unrelated to the effectiveness of any given therapy. In other cases, therapies may lose effectiveness or vary in effectiveness between individuals. In addition, the majority of aggressive psoriasis treatments can produce significant side effects.