Sunlight For Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

Eczema, atopic dermatitis, is a common skin disease that usually arises in childhood, runs a relapsing and remitting course, frequently persists into adult life, and can result in significant discomfort.

Emollients and topical steroids form the basis of treatment, but response is often incomplete. Patients with atopic eczema often report improvement after sun exposure, and results from a series of studies suggest that ultraviolet B (UVB; wavelength 280-315 nm), ultraviolet A (UVA; 315-400 nm), and combined UVA-UVB are effective treatments.

Narrow-band ultraviolet B (UVB) is frequently used for psoriasis, and open studies suggest that this phototherapy might improve atopic eczema.

Previous studies have shown that high dose UVA1 (340-400 nm) is as effective as moderately potent topical steroids for acute, severe atopic eczema. However, special irradiation devices, which are only available in specialist centers, are needed for this type of treatment.

A narrow-band (311 nm) UVB fluorescent lamp (TL01, Philips, Utrecht, Netherlands) has been developed that is effective in the treatment of psoriasis. Results of open, uncontrolled studies suggest that narrow-band UVB phototherapy might improve chronic, severe adult atopic eczema.

The researchers provided 12 weeks of this type of UV treatment for atopic dermatitis and noted improvements disease activity seen during treatment and were maintained 3 months after phototherapy had been stopped.

The type of UVA fluorescent lamp that we used is typical of lamps available in most sunbeds in UK and is widely used for psoralen photochemotherapy.

Lancet - June 23, 2001; 357: 2012-16