How Do Psoralens Work?

Reviewed on 5/25/2021

WHAT ARE PSORALENS AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

Psoralens are chemicals found in certain plants which make the skin temporarily sensitive to long-wave ultraviolet radiation (UVA). These are used to treat psoriasis and several other skin disorders.

PUVA or photochemotherapy is a combination of treatment that consists of taking psoralens orally (makes skin more sensitive to UV light) and then exposing the skin to UVA.

Psoralens boost the amount of ultraviolet light that the skin absorbs. Once the light energy is absorbed, these psoralens are energized to interact with DNA. This slows down the overgrowth of skin cells (inhibiting cell multiplication), which results in clearing up the psoriasis skin plaques. PUVA is effective in 80% of patients with psoriasis.

PUVA treatment is carried out in the following way:

  • Light treatment is given two to three times per week for 12 to 15 weeks. It is never given on two consecutive days.
  • For oral PUVA, psoralen capsules are taken 2 hours before the appointment for treatment (the amount of psoralen is based on the weight of the patient).
  • Bath PUVA therapy involves the immersion of the entire body in psoralen solution followed by exposure to UVA. During treatment, the patient usually stands in a cabinet containing UVA fluorescent bulbs. The length of the exposure depends on the degree of the patient's pigmentation, the darker the patient, the longer the exposure time. During treatment, the patient needs to wear goggles to protect the eyes and to cover the face and groin to prevent burns.

HOW ARE PSORALENS USED?

Skin conditions treated with psoralens include the following:

QUESTION

Psoriasis causes the top layer of skin cells to become inflamed and grow too quickly and flake off. See Answer

WHAT ARE SIDE EFFECTS OF PSORALENS?

Common side effects include:

  • Sunburn and blistering
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • Skin rash
  • Burning and/or stinging
  • Redness
  • Tanning or darkening of the skin

Other rare side effects include:

Information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.

WHAT ARE DRUG NAMES OF PSORALENS?

Drug names include:                           

References
https://reference.medscape.com/drugs/psoralens

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/psoriasis/what-are-psoralens#:~:text=lotion%20or%20gel.-,How%20Do%20Psoralens%20Work%3F,lymphoma%2C%20a%20type%20of%20cancer

https://dermnetnz.org/topics/puva-photochemotherapy/

https://www.medicinenet.com/puva_therapy_photochemotherapy/article.htm#what_is_puva

https://www.aocd.org/page/PhototherapyPUVA

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3809278/

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