Phototherapy Skin Treatments
Answered by Dr. Goldberg
Using Phototherapy to Treat Lichen Planus
Lichen planus is a skin disease that appears as shiny, reddish-purple bumps. While the rash can appear anywhere, it is most common on the ankles, back, inside of the wrists, lower legs, and neck. Some people experience no discomfort, but eight out of ten people deal with irritating itching. Steroid creams and antihistamines can reduce the redness and discomfort, but sometimes additional therapy is needed. Phototherapy can be particularly beneficial for people with large areas of involvement, when putting cream on all the bumps just isn’t practical.
What is Phototherapy?
The history of phototherapy dates back to the early 1900s when it was discovered that exposure to both acridine orange and light killed cells. This led doctors to combine light and photosensitizers to treat cancers on the skin and a form of lupus. Over time, photodynamic therapy has proven to be useful for treating everything from acne to lichen planus and rosacea.
Phototherapy involves the use ultraviolet (UV) light to help alleviate skin conditions like lichen planus. The ultraviolet light penetrates the skin cells and slows their growth. While people can gain similar benefits from being outside in the sun, there is a greater risk of skin cancer and photoaging when exposed to all wavelengths of light rather than just a “narrow band” of light as is the case in medically-directed UVB phototherapy. A dermatologist who specializes in phototherapy has the equipment available to target your problem areas with UVA or UVB rays. There is always a risk of overexposure or burns, but it is a very small risk when you seek the treatments from a professional.
What to Expect With Phototherapy Treatments
You will start with a consultation. Your doctor evaluates your skin and determines the best course of action. The doctor will discuss the pros and cons of the various lasers and light sources available to treat lichen planus. Because several treatments are often necessary to obtain the best results, phototherapy does require a commitment to regular treatments.
Often, phototherapy treatments for lichen planus are very similar to the treatments used for psoriasis. With a laser like the Excimer Laser, a beam of UV light targets the affected skin for a period of time determined by your doctor. You feel warmth from the laser, but you do not feel pain and you do not need anesthesia. Following a phototherapy treatment you can head home or back to the office, but you must avoid exposure to the sun.
Does the itching and appearance of lichen planus drive you crazy? Contact Skin Laser & Surgery Specialists of NY and NJ and schedule an appointment today, at (646) 461-8550.