The sun can be one of our skin's worst enemies, but now some dermatologists are taking cues from sunlight to battle a painful skin disease with a new type of phototherapy.
Standing in front of a UV light is how Mary Tibuni begins her morning three days a week. She suffers from a disease called morphea , it can affect any area of the body, and around joints it can cause decreased motion of the joints, also known as localized scleroderma. She says: "I had a bunch of bumps on my legs, and it gradually turned into bruises, almost purple. Then my skin started to get hard, and it was painful to the touch."
Doctors are now using a new kind of phototherapy called UVA-1 to ease the effects of morphea . Up to four times a week, patients receive rays of ultraviolet light just 15 inches from the problem spots. Each area is treated for 12 minutes. Researchers say the combination of the deeper penetration into the skin, as well as the higher doses, seem to somehow decrease the excessive thickening of the skin that's part of the morphea and thin it back out to a normal level -- making it flexible again.
After four months of treatment, Tibuni says she can feel the difference. "The redness and tightness has gone away from my legs," she says. "I can walk better and do more things."
Researchers believe UVA-1 therapy has a few minor side effects like darkening of the skin or itching that disappear when the treatment is stopped. In some patients, the symptoms of the disease disappear after a few months. But researchers have hope that it can be used to treat other skin conditions like dermatitis.