Since I started writing the bye bye psoriasis blog this winter, the sun has made relatively few appearances. Rising late and setting unreasonably early, less sun exposure means not getting enough Cholecalciferol, which can become a serious problem (read more about supplementing with vitamin D3 in the winter months).
Usually by the time March rolls around, the snow has begun to thaw a little bit. This year, however, the snow squalls and blizzards just seem to keep coming. It looks like us northerners will just have wait a bit longer before getting some extra natural sunshine (for those of you are reading this in a tropical climate or are close to the equator… we envy you.)
Fortunately for us psoriasis sufferers who are stuck in cold climes, there are alternatives to sunlight. UV treatment (or phototherapy) and tanning offer helpful solutions that curb skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, which can get progressively worse in the winter months.
Lets look at some of ways to go about receiving treatment, the mechanisms of action that it involves, as well as how to get the most out of light-based therapy.
Where To Find Light Therapy Resources
The first step involved in planning out your course of UV therapy is to talk to a qualified physician, preferably one who has had experience with psoriatic patients. If an expert is too difficult to find, then your physician may just refer you to a dermatologist (who will have surely had experience dealing with psoriasis).
After this, your doctor will prescribe you light therapy (be sure to discuss the health implications first). You will book several appointments in advance and will have the affected areas exposed to ultraviolet light. In more severe cases, you may be administered psoralen, a compound that increases the skins sensitivity to light. This course of action is potentially more harmful (again, very important to discuss the impact this may have on your health).
If you have the money (or the insurance), you can buy a home phototherapy unit, which you can use at regular intervals.
Another option which doesn’t require the expenses associated with qualified medical input (but may not be as efficient or as safe) is tanning. This is a tool to be used sparingly as it is known to have adverse health effects. Just make sure that the tanning beds have UVB light, as some are UVA exclusively.
I personally have used tanning beds in the past when my psoriasis was particularly serious, and it helped me tremendously.
I advise you to use your best judgement. For me, the psychological improvements and improved self-esteem were worth the potential risks involved. If your P is not horrible or debilitating, there are many other options for you to try.
Mechanisms of action
With psoriasis, skin at the affected areas tends to grow at a surprisingly fast speed. New cells are created before the old ones have the chance to die off normally, so they accumulate as lesions of dead skin.
When UVB light hits the effected areas, it penetrates through the surface layers of skin (known as the epidermis) and hits those rapidly replicating cells, forcing them to slow down and return to their regular speed. A good tip is to use a lotion that moisturises the skin after the therapy!
Since different light therapy units emit different amounts of UVB from different spectrums, it is important to find a bed that emits narrow-band UVB rays if you want to clear quickly. Other options may still work, but their efficacy will not be as ensured.
Getting The Most Out Of Phototherapy Treatments
As I mentioned in my article about mindfulness meditation, you can take an active role in clearing your psoriasis while undergoing light therapy by being mindful and aware of the present moment. Patients that performed meditative techniques during treatment had their skin clear almost three times faster then those who just participated in the UV treatment alone.
While you are tanning, begin by quieting the mind and entering into a deep state of relaxation. Begin to shift your conscious awareness to your breath, and imagine that as you inhale, you are breathing in strength and life that courses through your every cell. As you exhale, imagine your body falling deeper and deeper into a state of calm equanimity.
As you feel the UV light hitting your skin, imagine that it is penetrating through the outermost part of your skin and hitting the cells that are growing at an accelerated speed. Picture these rays of ultraviolet light putting a stop to the proliferation of these cells and constricting them, forcing them to grow normally.
I personally like to visualize the cells in the affected areas as cogs in a machine that are turning far too rapidly. As the light penetrates the epidermis, I imagine those cogs slowing down to a calm, deliberate pace.
I have found that this imaginative visualization, accompanied by a feeling of deep relaxation, has had a profound influence on my skin condition. Previously stubborn patches begin to dissolve and give way to new soft and smooth skin underneath.
A Word Of Warning
I would like to reiterate that all kinds of UV therapy (including tanning beds) pose notable health risks, among them an increased risk of skin cancer. You should investigate the risks in full before deciding if this variety of treatment is the right fit for you.
I hope that whatever treatment option you choose (if any) that your skin improves and so does your health.
Thanks for reading!