Many people with psoriasis find that their symptoms improve when exposed to sunlight. Making use of the sun's rays can have its benefits, but it's important to be aware of the dangers and stay safe.
How can sunlight help psoriasis?
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, UVB from the sun penetrates the skin and can slow down the rate at which affected skin cells grow (). Sunlight is made up of UVA and UVB rays, and it's the UVB type that is most effective at tackling this skin disease.
Exposure to UVB rays also increases production of vitamin D in the body, which is vital for bone health and a strong immune system. Vitamin D can also reduce inflammation, and according to Healthline, it can help to clear psoriasis plaques.
Since vitamin D is hard to obtain from food sources, exposure to sunlight, or taking vitamin D supplements, can be an important part of psoriasis treatment.
As well as obtaining UVB rays from the sun, there are also artificial treatments, known as phototherapy, that can be used to tackle psoriasis symptoms. Artificial treatments involve exposure to a light source for set periods of time, which is typically carried out in a medical setting or at home.
Light therapy focuses on exposure to UVB rays, and although UVA rays don't work as well as UVB to reduce psoriasis symptoms, a medication called psoralen is used in light therapy treatment to improve its effectiveness.
Experts reckon you should never use a sunbed to help treat your symptoms because you can't be sure what level of UV light you'll be exposed to. In some cases, this may even worsen symptoms.
Risks versus benefits
Speak to your doctor before using sunlight therapy to manage your condition, so that you can weigh up the risks against the benefits. If you take certain medications, sunlight exposure may increase sensitivity to the sun and cause sunburn.
Build up exposure to the sun slowly. The key thing is to have regular exposure over a period of time, rather than a long, short burst. In fact, overexposure resulting in sunburn may lead to a condition called Koebnerisation, which can worsen symptoms.
Practise all the general rules of sun exposure, such as applying sunscreen and not overdoing it. Some people may notice an improvement in their symptoms quite quickly, while others may not notice any changes for several weeks or more.