Background: Narrow-band ultraviolet B (UVB) is an effective treatment for psoriasis, and open studies suggest that this phototherapy might improve atopic eczema. We did a randomised controlled trial to compare narrow-band UVB, UVA, and visible light phototherapy as second-line, adjunctive treatments in adult patients with moderate to severe atopic eczema.
Methods: Phototherapy was administered twice a week for 12 weeks. 26 patients were randomly assigned narrow-band UVB, 24 were assigned UVA, and 23 visible fluorescent light. The primary endpoints were change in total disease activity (sum of scores at six body sites) and change in extent of disease after 24 treatments compared with baseline. Data were analysed by the method of summary measures.
Findings: 13 patients withdrew or were excluded from analysis. Mean reductions in total disease activity over 24 treatments in patients who received narrow-band UVB and UVA, respectively, were 9.4 points (95% CI 3.6 to 15.2) and 4.4 points (-1.0 to 9.8) more than in patients who received visible light. Mean reductions in extent of disease after 24 treatments with narrow-band UVB and UVA were 6.7% (1.5 to 11.9) and -1.0% (-5.3 to 3.3) compared with visible light. A small proportion of patients developed erythema after phototherapy or had a flare in their eczema sufficient to withdraw from treatment.
Interpretation: Narrow-band UVB is an effective adjunctive treatment for moderate to severe atopic eczema, and the treatment is well tolerated by most patients.