Dermatology (Skin conditions)

PUVA Treatment

Contact: 0191 282 4485 - PUVA Unit

What is PUVA?
P = Psoralen tablets taken two hours before treatment. 
UVA = Ultra Violet A light 

Where is the treatment carried out? 
In the Phototherapy Day Treatment Unit located in the Victoria Wing, at the Royal Victoria Infirmary. The unit is open from 08.30 to 3.30pm Monday to Friday. The telephone number (direct dial) for the unit is 0191 282 4485. In case of emergency or queries out of hours please ring Ward 19 on 0191 28 25599. 

When will I attend? 
You will usually have treatment twice a week, either on a Monday and Thursday, or Tuesday and Friday. Appointments are prearranged and a course of treatment will usually last 7-8 weeks. If for some reason you fail to attend for treatment on three consecutive occasions without informing the nurse, you will be discharged to your GP. 

How is the treatment carried out? 
On treatment days only: 
• You take your prescribed Psoralen tablets with a small amount of food two hours before your appointment. 
• From the time you take the PUVA tablets and then until the evening of the same day you must wear Polaroid Sunglasses when in natural sunlight (these need not be expensive and can be bought in many shops) 
• On arrival in form the nurse 
• Get undressed, and put on your dressing gown ( we can provide a gown if required) 
• You will be given protective goggles and sometimes a face visor to wear during treatment 
• You will have your treatment in a special cabinet which will last a few seconds at first and build up to a few minutes during the course
• The PUVA nurses, Prof Farr or the PUVA registrar will assess your treatment progress and discuss this with you 
• Note If you have any concerns or worries please discuss this with the nurse • Note for female patients you should not become pregnant during the course of PUVA treatment. 
• Never use a sun bed or indulge in sunbathing during your course of treatment. • On treatment days protect exposed areas of skin from sunlight by wearing long sleeves/sun hats/sun block.

Note for Male Patients:
Unless specifically instructed by nursing staff, the skin of the penis and scrotum should be protected during ultraviolet exposure. In order to still allow treatment of the buttocks and thighs; it is best if you wear a jock strap during treatment. The alternative, of wearing your usual underwear and pulling this down at the back is less satisfactory as the exact area treated and protected by clothing will vary from treatment to treatment, and may result in burning as the exposure times increase during the course. More information and advice is available from nursing and medical staff. 

Are there any side effects? 
During Treatment

  • Some people can feel nauseous when taking Psoralen tablets – let the nurses know if this is a problem. 
  • Burning of the skin can sometimes occur, this redness can take 2-3 days to appear and can last for more than one week. 
  • Itching and dryness may occur, but will feel better when Hydromol is applied. 

Long Term

  • Premature aging of the skin, most obviously an increase in the number of freckles, can occur after PUVA treatment. 
  • Patients who have received continuous PUVA treatment for several years or who have had the equivalent of around 10-15 PUVA courses of average length are known to be at risk of developing certain forms of skin cancer. For this reason we do not recommend maintenance treatment once the skin has cleared, and we try and keep courses of treatment as short as possible and widely spaced. 
  • We can give you more information about these side effects if you wish

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