Keep your skin looking and feeling great year-round with light-based psoriasis relief in Frederick, MD
Psoriasis has an amicable relationship with light. For this reason, the lack of sunlight associated with the fall and winter months is linked to flare-ups of this common and troubling skin condition. Likewise, you may have noticed symptoms such as redness, scaling, and itching tend to get better in the summer. In the winter, the supply of ultraviolet light from the sun’s rays is in shorter supply. Moreover, people tend to stay indoors and avoid the cold, which also means avoiding the UV light that helps psoriasis symptoms! You don’t have to brave the cold to benefit from light-based therapy for psoriasis relief in Frederick, MDat the Washington Dermatology Center. Also known as “phototherapy,” Drs. Ron Prussick, Mary Piazza Maiberger, and Jennifer Nguyen can recreate the benefits provided by the great outdoors in the office.
And, while one often hears about dangers from UV light such as cancer and premature signs of aging, there is great power in light when it is used correctly, in a controlled environment, prescribed and supervised by the experienced dermatologists at Washington Dermatology Center. The light we use is narrow band UVB, which is the wavelength that best treats psoriasis but has been found to be safe in large clinical studies.
The light-psoriasis connection
While researchers believe around 10 percent of people have at least one of the genes responsible for psoriasis, the condition affects about 2 to 3 percent of the population. What causes the disparity between those percentages? It’s believed that patients with psoriasis have a combination of genes and are susceptible to a specific set of external factors known as “triggers.” These triggers vary from person to person (what activates psoriasis symptoms in one person may not affect another). However, stress, injuries such as scratches, certain medications, and infections like streptococcus either cause psoriasis to arise or aggravate existing symptoms. Allergies, diet, and weather are all thought to play a role in triggering or aggravating psoriasis.
The dryness of the air and low levels of exposure to the sun’s UV rays are thought to be the likely culprits responsible for worsening symptoms in the fall and winter. Even when you brave the elements, winters in the Frederick and Rockville MD area aren’t for the faint of heart – “bundling up” is a must. All of these characteristics of Northeast winters are not conducive to taking advantage of the benefits of UV year-round. UV is thought to have immunosuppressive effects, hindering the rapid growth of skin cells at the heart of psoriasis. When the production of skin cells outpaces the skin’s ability to slough off dead cells, you end up with a build-up characterized commonly by red patches, thick silver-colored “scales,” dry and cracked skin, and itching, burning, and soreness.
It’s important to know not all types of UV rays have the same level of benefit. For instance, natural UVA rays are not very effective at treating psoriasis. Plus, they tend to reach deep into the skin. Narrow band UVB rays only reach the top layers of skin, and are administered to “normalize” cell turnover, easing inflammation and reducing scaling. Drs. Prussick, Maiberger, and Nguyen may prescribe a certain amount of narrow-band UVB light exposure to reduce or relieve your symptoms.
Safe UVB exposure is delivered using a state-of-the-art light box. If psoriasis affects hard-to-treat areas, such as the scalp or skin folds, light from a laser device is directed to the treatment area. You cannot replicate safe, professional UV exposure at the tanning salon. Tanning beds are not phototherapy units! The wavelengths in tanning beds feature more UVA than UVB light – putting you at increased risk of skin damage and cancer, without providing UVB’s therapeutic effects.
The environment is thought to either hinder or help your psoriasis in still other ways:
- Sunlight helps your body create Vitamin D, which protects the skin and regulates the natural immune response. In fact, researchers have found a deficiency in Vitamin D may be common among people with psoriasis – particularly in the winter.
- The lack of humidity in the air outside and in heated rooms inside tends to strip the skin of its natural oils, and dryness is not good for psoriasis symptoms.
- Frequent moisturizing with products tailored to your needs, and the use of humidifiers (at home and at the office) can help bring relief to parched, irritated skin.
Some of Washington Dermatology Center’s patients have benefited from combination therapies – light-based treatments in addition to biologic medications that alter the immune system.
Keep your skin looking and feeling great year-round. Call 855-314-1425 to schedule a consultation at the Frederick office. If the Rockville office is more convenient for you, call 855-314-1424.
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