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Tanning Beds No Substitute for Phototherapy for Psoriasis

Your skin could burn more easily, resulting in an even greater psoriasis flare

Tanning bedsWhile turning to tanning beds may seem like an effective way to treat your psoriasis, especially if your skin tends to clear when you spend time in the sun, experts advise otherwise.

Tanning beds in commercial salons emit mostly ultraviolet light A (UVA), not ultraviolet B (UVB). The beneficial effects for treating psoriasis is attributed primarily to UVB light.

"I never make that recommendation," Dr. Raymond Dean, a Traverse City, Mich., dermatologist, says of using tanning beds as a way to treat psoriasis. "You need controlled light therapy through your doctor's office or with an at-home unit. With tanning beds, I just don't know what my patients would be getting—you're likely getting more ultraviolet A, and it's never controlled properly."

Your skin could burn more easily, resulting in an even greater psoriasis flare, Dean adds. This is known as the Koebner phenomenon.

The National Psoriasis Foundation does not support the use of tanning beds as a treatment option for psoriasis. The American Academy of Dermatology, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all discourage the use of tanning beds and sun lamps. The ultraviolet radiation from these devices can damage the skin, cause premature aging and increase the risk of skin cancer.

Like Dean, most practicing dermatologists also discourage psoriasis patients from using tanning beds. However, some view this method as a last resort if patients do not have access to light therapy.

Consult your dermatologist before using a tanning bed to treat your psoriasis and keep these guidelines and precautions in mind:

  • Psoralen drugs or other photosensitizing drugs should not be used in combination with tanning.
  • Tanning facilities may not measure or track the UV output of their bulbs on a regular basis.
  • New bulbs may be inserted into the tanning bed without the customer's knowledge, which can make the UV output more intense. These changes and lack of monitoring can cause a serious sunburn and subsequent disease flare.
  • Risks of premature aging and skin cancer will increase with tanning bed use.
  • People with psoriasis should talk to a doctor about any factors that may increase risk of burning.
  • Individuals should gradually build exposure times, starting at a time recommended by a doctor.
  • Protect skin not affected by psoriasis from exposure.
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