Tanning Bed to Tame Eczema: Good Idea or Bad?
I won’t lie, when I was a teenager I saw the beauty of the tanning bed. Not only did being tan make me feel more confident and beautiful, I really believed that it improved the condition of my skin. Yes I was a normal teenager but I suffered from eczema which made me feel extremely abnormal and very ugly. If you don’t know about eczema, it is a genetic skin condition often triggered by allergies causing inflamed, dry, red and very itchy skin rashes. Eczema is not contagious and cannot be spread from one person to another yet it can cause much frustration and pain. To me, having eczema was like having the plague and I would do anything to get rid of it, including putting my health and my skin at risk. Tanning seemed to be the answer for me back then, but definitely not now.
Over the past 10 years we have been hearing how terrible tanning beds are and the devastating health issues that have been caused by them including melanoma and skin cancer. The amazing thing is that people continue to use them and use them a lot, apparently. Consider, well, YOU KNOW WHO, and the example she is teaching her five children. Don’t get me started on that though….what an idiot.
A somewhat common treatment for eczema is phototherapy which consists of exposing an individual to daylight or to specific wavelengths of light using lasers, light-emitting diodes, fluorescent lamps, dichroic lamps or very bright, full-spectrum light. The light is administered for a prescribed amount of time and, in some cases, at a specific time of day in order to treat specific conditions including those related to skin conditions, sleep disorders and some psychiatric disorders.
There is a HUGE difference between using a tanning bed and phototherapy, primarily due to the fact that tanning beds emit harmful UVA rays and phototherapy emits UVB rays (although phototherapy can use a combination of the two, but this is in a controlled setting). People considering phototherapy need to consult their dermatologists to discuss whether this would be an optimal eczema treatment for them or not. Phototherapy carries many risks and should be performed under close medical supervision and it is not recommended to be performed at home. It can cause burning and blistering of the skin (like sunburn due to natural sunlight), skin damage and aging in the form of freckles, sunspots and wrinkles, skin cancer, eye problems such as cataracts or side effects from the medication provided with the light therapy.
There is still debate as to whether phototherapy should be used as a treatment for eczema as discussed in The Dark and the Sunny Sides of UVR-Induced Immunosuppression: Photoimmunology Revisited. The author discusses how being exposed to low levels of sunlight (only 30–50% as high as what is required to cause barely detectable sunburn), can reduce the activation or efficacy of the immune system. WOW, that is surprising, I thought minimal exposure was supposed to be good for us. He also mentions that being exposed to the same amount of light can actually decrease bacterial superinfections (new infections complicating the course of antimicrobial therapy of an existing infection, due to proliferation of bacteria or fungi resistant to the drug(s) in use.) Obviously more research needs to be done but for now we can conclude:
Tanning bed = BAD for everyone, DO NOT USE!
Phototherapy = MAYBE GOOD but depends on the individual and should be discussed with a physician and only performed under a physicians’ supervision.
If you have any comments or experiences with using phototherapy, please let me know as I would love to hear about them, good, bad or ugly….