Psoriasis management: Guidelines for safe sun exposure in psoriasis treatment | Health

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition characterised by itchy, scaly patches, commonly found on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp and while there is no definitive cure for psoriasis, it can be a persistent and discomforting ailment, potentially affecting sleep quality and concentration. The condition typically follows a cyclical pattern, with flare-ups lasting for weeks or months, followed by periods of remission.

Psoriasis management: Guidelines for safe sun exposure in psoriasis treatment (File Photo)

Although a complete remedy remains elusive, certain measures can help regulate the rapid growth of skin cells, preventing the formation of scales and patches. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Rekha Singh, MD.DVL at Oliva Skin and Hair Clinic in Hyderabad, revealed, “One such approach involves exposure to natural sunlight. For some individuals, brief periods of sun exposure can yield noticeable improvements. In warmer climates, particularly during summer, some people have reported a reduction or even disappearance of scales and patches.”

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How Sunlight Alleviates Psoriasis Symptoms

Dr Rekha Singh sahred, “Natural sunlight benefits psoriasis due to its composition of UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays play a crucial role in slowing down the accelerated rate of skin cell growth and shedding, potentially leading to an improvement in psoriasis symptoms. Additionally, sun exposure prompts the body to produce more vitamin D, which is beneficial for overall skin and bone health. However, it’s essential to take precautions against sunburn, especially for individuals with light skin, who are more susceptible to it. They also face a higher risk of developing serious forms of cancer such as melanoma.”

Highlighting that it is important to note that natural sunbathing lacks the controlled environment provided by medical settings, like phototherapy, she said, “Certain medications may increase sensitivity to light, heightening the risk of sunburn and skin cancer. For individuals with mild psoriasis, starting with around 30 minutes of sun exposure at noon can be a good initial step. Those with more severe symptoms should begin with shorter exposure times and gradually increase them. However, consulting a doctor before attempting this is crucial, as some individuals may experience skin burning within just 5-10 minutes of exposure. Regardless of the duration of sun exposure, it’s advisable to use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 to protect the skin, even when aiming to benefit from the sun’s rays.”

Guidelines for Safe Sun Exposure in Psoriasis Treatment

Dr Rekha Singh advised, “The amount of sun exposure that can benefit psoriasis treatment should be determined by a person’s physician. Doctors can evaluate an individual’s medical condition and recommend a safe level of sun exposure. Medical advice may include wearing sunscreen consistently when outdoors or avoiding the sun’s peak intensity during typical hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additionally, healthcare professionals may suggest a more controlled form of UV exposure, such as narrow-band UVB therapy. It’s crucial for individuals undergoing phototherapy, which encompasses treatments like PUVA (combining UVA rays with psoralen), to steer clear of direct sun exposure. This precaution helps ensure the effectiveness and safety of their treatment plan.”

Sunlight: Balancing Benefits and Risks

While sunlight can be beneficial for psoriasis, it is important to be aware of potential risks. Dr Rekha Singh pointed out, “UVA light, which penetrates deeply into the skin, is responsible for tanning. However, excessive and prolonged UVA exposure can lead to photoaging, resulting in age spots, wrinkles, and broken veins. UVB light, on the other hand, can cause sunburn if one is exposed for too long. Severe sunburns may even trigger psoriasis, and repeated incidents can heighten the risk of skin cancer, particularly in younger individuals. It’s crucial to note that certain medications and supplements can increase sensitivity to sunlight, making individuals more susceptible to sunburns. Therefore, precautions should be taken for those on such medications.”

She concluded, “While a definitive cure for psoriasis remains elusive, individuals can effectively control the condition through the use of topical treatments and lifestyle adjustments. Under the guidance of a healthcare professional, sun exposure, particularly through UVB rays, can play a pivotal role in symptom management. Dermatologist-supervised phototherapy offers a controlled approach to harnessing the benefits of these rays. A dermatologist is best equipped to recommend the optimal type and duration of UV exposure, as well as the appropriate sun protection measures to implement. Their expertise ensures a tailored approach to psoriasis management.”

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