Dermatology (Skin conditions)

Phototherapy Unit Narrow Band UVB

Contact: 0191 282 4485 - PUVA/Phototherapy Room

Ultra violet radiation from artificial light sources has been used by dermatologists for almost 100 years and is a widely used and effective treatment for a number of skin disorders. Choice of UVB over other forms of light treatment depends on a wide range of factors including age, disease, skin type, previous therapy, current medication etc.

In Newcastle we use “narrow band” UVB which is the latest development in UV treatment of skin disorders. It is more effective than conventional broad band UVB in the treatment of psoriasis and possibly other skin diseases too. We may therefore recommend it even if previous conventional UVB treatments have been disappointing.

Conventional or broad band UVB is considered to be a relatively safe treatment, with no increased risk of skin cancer ever having been demonstrated. Narrow band UVB has only been used widely for the last eight years or so and therefore information on long-term safety is not available. We suspect that the narrow band lamps may result in a small increase in skin cancer risk if treatment courses are given repeatedly over a number of years. However, narrow band UVB is thought to be considerably safer than PUVA.

The unit is open Monday and Thursday between the hours of 8.30am – 4.00pm and also Tuesday and Friday 8.30am – 3.30pm. Following your consultation with the doctor in the PUVA clinic a nurse will discuss with you your appointment and treatment procedure.

At the first visit an arm test is performed. The test is read 24 hours later and tells us how sensitive your skin is to the treatment. It allows us to choose a safe but effective dose of UVB to start the course of treatment. At subsequent visits the increase in dose depends on skin type, disease and skin response (or lack of response) after the previous treatment. Initially, treatment will take only a few minutes (or even seconds), gradually increasing to approximately 8 minutes.

Ideally you will develop mild skin redness with no discomfort after each treatment. You must inform the nurse when you feel the dose is exceeding your skin’s tolerance so that the dose can be adjusted.

All treatments are nurse supervised and given in stand up cabinets surrounded by fluorescent lamps. All patients whilst receiving treatment may be requested to wear goggles to protect their eyes, a visor to protect their face and clothing to protect unaffected skin areas. Men should wear underpants unless advised otherwise by the doctor or nurse.

UVB is safe to use in pregnancy. 

There is also no need to protect the eyes after treatment.

Treatment is given twice a week either on a Tuesday and Thursday or three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Dos And Don’ts

  • Always remember to inform the doctor or nurse if you are taking, or about to start, any new medication or cream while having UV therapy.
  • Dry flaky skin will deflect the light, rendering UVB therapy ineffective. On UVB days, before treatment, use only Epaderm, Aqueous cream and Diprobase cream as a moisturiser.
  • Use treatment creams such as: tar, steroid or Dovonex on non-treatment days only.
  • Never use a sunbed or indulge in sunbathing during your course of treatment. Otherwise it is impossible to determine the cause and/or dose of burning.
  • On bright days, protect exposed areas from the sunlight by wearing long sleeves, a hat and sun block etc.
  • In order to maximise the benefits of UVB and so as not to inconvenience other patients, regular and punctual attendance is insisted upon. Treatment will otherwise have to be withdrawn if three appointments are missed without informing the nursing staff.
  • Jewellery e.g. rings, if worn at the start of treatment should then be worn at every treatment thereafter, as areas covered at the start will burn if subsequently exposed.
  • For the same reason please wear a similar style of underwear for each treatment.

Note for male patients
Unless specifically instructed by the 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 thigh, it is best if you wear a jockstrap 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 the nursing and medical staff.

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