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PUVA Therapy (Photochemotherapy) (cont.)

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What are PUVA light therapy side effects?

PUVA has a definite potential to cause skin cancer, including melanomas. The risk of developing skin cancer is directly related to the amount of energy administered. PUVA will cause photo-aging (dry and wrinkled with pigment alterations called lentigenes) that is unavoidable. If not appropriately monitored, PUVA can produce severe ultraviolet light burns. Occasionally, Oxsoralen can cause nausea so susceptible patients take the drug with food.

How effective is PUVA therapy?

PUVA is a safe and effective treatment for psoriasis. Recently, a newer treatment has supplanted it to some extent, utilizing a different wavelength of light called "narrow band UVB." Although a visit to a physician's office is still necessary to administer the light, it is not necessary to take a drug by mouth. Both types of treatments are similar in their effectiveness.

PUVA is also useful in the treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, mycosis fungoides, and certain difficult cases of atopic dermatitis. Extracorporeal photophoresis is a variation of PUVA where a portion of the patient's white blood cells are removed and then mixed with a psoralen preparation prior to exposure to a UVA source in a machine external to the body. These treated cells are then infused back into the patient. This type of treatment is effective for patients with Sézary's syndrome, a type of leukemic mycosis fungoides, as well as graft vs. host disease.

Where can people find more information on PUVA?

National Psoriasis Foundation


Almutawa, Fahad, Naif Alnomair, Yun Wang, Iltefat Hamzavi, and Henry W. Lim. "Systemic Review of UV-Based Therapy for Psoriasis." American Journal of Clinical Dermatology Apr. 10, 2013: 1-26.

Farahnik, Benjamin, et al. "The Patient's Guide to Psoriasis Treatment. Part 2: PUVA Phototherapy." Dermatol Ther July 29, 2016.

Hönigsmann, H. "Phototherapy for Psoriasis." Clinical and Experimental Dermatology 26 (2001): 343-350. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2230.2001.00828.

Ling, T.C., et al. "British Association of Dermatologists and British Photodermatology Group guidelines for the safe and effective use of psoralen-ultraviolet A therapy 2015." British Journal of Dermatology 174 (2016): 24-55.

Racz, Emoke, and Errol P. Prens. "Phototherapy and Photochemotherapy for Psoriasis." Dermatol Clin 33 (2015): 79-89.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/12/2017


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