PUVA = Psoralen + UVA
PUVA (psoralen + UVA) is a type of photodynamic therapy used to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and vitiligo. The patient receives psoralen (a drug that becomes active when it is exposed to light) by mouth or applied to the skin, followed by ultraviolet A light radiation.
Psoralens are photosensitizing agents found in plants. Psoralens allow a relatively lower dose of UVA to be used when used in combination therapy such as PUVA.
There are two forms of psoralens that can be prescribed: One form that is swallowed, the other that is applied to the skin. Patients who take a psoralen orally do so between 90 minutes and 2 hours before treatment. For skin application, psoralen is applied to the skin for 30 minutes prior to treatment. Paint PUVA (psoralen applied to the skin like paint) is very effective for treating psoriasis on the hands and feet.
PUVA therapy may only be performed by a healthcare provider. PUVA therapy can be administered in non-targeted and targeted UV phototherapy dosages. In some cases, an intense PUVA treatment regimen is administered one or more times per week for an initial period, followed up by NB-UVB therapy without psoralen for maintenance.
Physicians and Dermatologists may prescribe PUVA therapy when psoriasis, eczema and vitiligo does not respond to other treatments. PUVA therapy may also be prescribed for severe psoriasis or widespread psoriasis.
Side effects of PUVA therapy include:
- Skin reddening
- Dry skin
- Burning sensation of the skin
When taking oral psoralen, some people develop nausea, headache, or fatigue. These side effects can usually be controlled with small dosage changes.
While PUVA is more toxic than either UVA or UVB light alone, it is less toxic than systemic and biologic drugs.