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Mechanisms of ultraviolet UVB and UVA phototherapy.

Krutmann J, Morita A.

Clinical and Experimental photodermatology, Department of Dermatology, Heinrich-Heine-University, Dusseldorf, Germany.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation has been used for decades with great success and at a constantly increasing rate in the management of skin diseases, becoming an essential part of modern dermatologic therapy (Krutmann et al, 1999). For phototherapy, irradiation devices emitting either predominantly middle wave UV (UVB, 290-315 nm) or long wave UV (UVA, 315-400 nm) radiation are employed. In former years, patients were treated with broad-band UVB, broad-band UVA, or combination regimens. Broad-band UV phototherapy, however, is being replaced more frequently by the use of irradiation devices that allow treatment of patients' skin with selected emission spectra. Two such modalities which have their origin in European photodermatology are 311 nm UVB phototherapy (which uses long-wave UVB radiation above 300 nm rather than broadband UVB) and high-dose UVA1 therapy (which selective employs long-wave UVA radiation above 340 nm). In Europe, 311 nm UVB phototherapy has almost replaced classical broad-band UVB phototherapy and has significantly improved therapeutic efficacy and safety of UVB phototherapy (van Welden et al, 1988; Krutmann et al, 1999). The constantly increasing use of UVA-1 phototherapy has not only improved UVA phototherapy for established indications such as atopic dermatitis (Krutmann et al, 1992a, 1998; Krutmann, 1996), but has also provided dermatologists with the opportunity to successfully treat previously untraceable skin diseases, e.g., connective tissue diseases (Stege et al, 1997; Krutmann, 1997). These clinical developments have stimulated studies about the mechanisms by which UVB and UVA phototherapy work. The knowledge obtained from this work is an indispensable prerequisite to make treatment decisions on a rationale rather than an empirical basis. Modern dermatologic phototherapy has started to profit from this knowledge, and it is very likely that this development will continue and provide dermatologists with improved phototherapeutic modalities and regimens for established and new indications. This review aims to provide an overview about current concepts of the mode of action of dermatologic phototherapy. Special emphasis will be given on studies that have identified previously unrecognized immunosuppressive/anti-inflammatory principles of UV phototherapy.

PMID: 10537012 [pubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


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Psoriasis is a common skin disease that causes raised red skin with thick silvery scales.


Vitiligo is a disorder in which white patches of skin appear on the body

hair loss

Hair loss usually develops gradually and may be patchy or diffuse


Acne is a disorder of the hair follicles and sebaceous oil glands that leads to skin infections


Inflammation of the skin, often a rash, swelling, pain, itching, cracking. Can be caused by an irritant or allergen

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