Munson Health

Back to Document

by Safer DA

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
Nucleus image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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 lupus, that require you to avoid the sun
  • History of skin cancer
  • Liver disease—phototherapy may increase medication levels in the blood

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

You will be asked to remove any clothes that cover the skin being treated. Areas that do not need treatment should be covered and protected as much as possible. Some safety steps include:
  • Sunscreen to protect your neck, lips, and the backs of your hands
  • Special glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from UV light
  • Cover for genitals in men
  • Sunscreen for nipples and areola in women
Make sure to inform your doctor about any medication that you are currently taking. Some medications, including over-the-counter medication, can increase the risk of side effects.

Post-procedure Care

Your doctor should regularly examine your skin for skin cancer. UV light exposure from sunlight causes skin cancer. Long-term PUVA treatment can also increase the risk of skin cancer. No studies have found a direct link from nbUVB phototherapy to skin cancer.
Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.


American Academy of Dermatology

National Psoriasis Foundation



Eczema Canada

Health Canada



Gambichler T, Breuckmann F, et al. Narrowband UVB phototherapy in skin conditions beyond psoriasis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005;52(4):660-670. Review.

Muekusch G, Pitman J, Smiljanic D. Photoresponsive diseases. Dermatol Nurs. 2007;19(1):43-47.

Phototherapy. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at: Accessed November 21, 2013.

Phototherapy. National Psoriasis Foundation website. Available at: Accessed November 21, 2013.

Psoriasis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated November 14, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2013.

UVA Photo(chemo)therapy. Derm Net AZ website. Available at: Accessed November 21, 2013.

What happened to phototherapy. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: Published August 1, 2012. Accessed November 21, 2013.


Revision Information