Light Therapy for Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic Arthritis Basics

Scientists believe psoriatic arthritis is caused by a combination of environment, genetics and immune system strength. Symptoms include crumbling, discoloration, pitting or thickening of the nails; difficulty moving immediately after rising; eye redness and pain; lower back or neck pain; stiffness, or tenderness in the joints and swelling around the affected areas.

Some sufferers experience enthesitis -- swelling around the tendons of the affected area. Others get tenosynovitis, where the tendon's surrounding sheath becomes inflamed. Another is dactylitis, which makes fingers and toes swell.

Psoriatic arthritis gravitates to some joints more than others. Mutilans shortens or deforms finger or toe joints. Asymmetric oligorarthritis occurs on one side of the body, affecting fewer than five joints. Distal arthritis attacks the tips of fingers and toes. Spondyloarthropathy prefers the joints of the spine. Polyarthritis affects multiple joints on both sides of the body.

Sunlight Treatments for Psoriatric Arthritis

Sunlight's ultraviolet bands suppress skin cell growth to abate or slow down psoriatric arthritis. Treatment may be done through artificial sunlight administered at a dermatologist or carefully monitored, natural sun treatments may be prescribed if climate conditions are favorable. Treatments are spaced closely together at first--several times a week--and then further apart--once a week or less--for maintenance purposes. Length of treatment depends on the severity of the condition and the patient's overall health. Unfortunately, patients may trade one condition for another since too much exposure to sunlight can cause skin cancer.

UVB Rays

UVB rays are shorter wavelength ultraviolet light. UVB light treatments are administered at a treatment center with the use of special light box. Twenty-four treatments are administered within 60 days. Maintenance treatments may be needed. Length of treatment varies based on the condition itself and the patient's overall health. Side effects like burning, freckling, premature wrinkling and skin cancer may occur.

PUVA Light Treatments

PUVA treatments, administered by a dermatologist, combine the drug psoralen with ultraviolet phototherapy. Psoralen increases the patient's ability to absorb UV light. Together the two penetrate the skin's epidermis and dig deeper into lower layers surrounding arthritic joints. PUVA treatment is often reserved for cases in which the psoriatic arthritis affects multiple joints or when other treatment options have failed. It requires 24 treatments initially, followed by an additional 35 treatments throughout the year. Length and scheduling of treatment is based on the severity of the condition and the patient's overall all. PUVA is not recommended for children, persons who are immune compromised or are pregnant or may become pregnant. Side effects include burns, headache, itching, nausea and red skin.