What is Eczema and How Can Phototherapy Help?

by | Jun 28, 2022

Eczema, treated with phototherapy, is an inflammatory condition of the skin that causes dryness, scaly patches, itchiness, skin infections and blisters. Itchy skin is the most common symptom associated with eczema. It can begin during a person’s childhood, adolescence, or adulthood, and can range from mild to severe. Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema, resulting primarily from an overactive immune system which causes the barrier of the skin to become itchy and dry. While the exact causes are unknown, researchers are convinced that people develop eczema because of a fundamental interaction between environmental triggers and genes.

What are the causes of eczema?

As we mentioned, it could be an interaction between your genes and your environment that cause your eczema to ‘flare up.’ When an allergen or irritant from inside or outside the body ‘turns on’ the immune system, it produces further inflammation, or ‘flare up,’ on the surface of the skin. This inflammation will cause the symptoms common to eczema. Creases of your skin, particularly in flexural areas such as those behind the elbows, knees, lower legs (and other areas that rub together) can also lead to irritation.

Other common triggers of eczema can also include:

  • Exposure to extreme heat, dry or cold air
  • Certain types of shampoo, body wash, soap, bubble bath, facial cleansers
  • Fabric softeners or laundry detergents with chemical additives
  • Certain fabrics like polyester or wool in sheets and clothing
  • Surface disinfectants and cleaners
  • Natural liquids like the juice from vegetables, fruit, and meats
  • Fragrances found in candles
  • Metals, particularly nickel, in utensils or jewellery

What are the symptoms associated with eczema?

Most important to remember is that eczema and its symptoms are typically different for everyone. Eczema will almost always lead to itchy skin, but this itch can range from mild to severe for most people. Scratching the itch till it bleeds it known as the ‘itch-scratch cycle.’ Some other symptoms of eczema can include:

  • Dryness or sensitive skin
  • Discoloured or inflamed skin
  • Leathery, scaly, or rough skin, normally appearing as scaly patches
  • Crusting or oozing
  • Swelling

How can phototherapy help your eczema?

Phototherapy (light therapy) commonly refers to the use of UV light used to treat mild to severe eczema in children and adults. In order to use phototherapy to treat your eczema, it is common to have tried various topical therapies and discovered that they do not effectively control your eczema.

Natural sunlight is able to reduce symptoms of eczema in those afflicted by causing a reduction in the inflammatory response in a person’s skin. Both UVB and UVA wavelengths are commonly used to treat eczema. Phototherapy involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light on a consistent basis and under proper medical supervision. Narrowband UVB phototherapy has become the treatment of choice for conditions such as psoriasis, vitiligo, atopic dermatitis (eczema) and other photo responsive skin disorders. The key to success with light therapy is primarily consistency.

Present in natural sunlight, Ultraviolet light B (UVB) is an effective treatment for eczema. Treatment involves exposing the skin to an artificial source of UVB light for a given length of time on a consistent schedule. Phototherapy gradually improves the skin after several weeks of consistent treatment that are normally two or three times per week. You can expect to experience a noticeable reduction in itching, and the eczema will slowly clear as treatment goes on. It is highly important that people are able to get regular treatment sessions in to optimise the chances of success, as the frequency can be reduced once treatment is effective.

Here at Skin Matters Bristol, we offer highly effective, UVB light therapy for a number of skin conditions, including Psoriasis, Vitiligo, Pityriasis Rosea and Atopic Eczema. We offer a wide range of UVB narrowband phototherapy units, all of which we can deliver across the whole of the UK. Find out more at our website here.