Phototherapy in the management of atopic dermatitis: a systematic review

Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2007 Aug;23(4):106-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0781.2007.00291.x.


Background/purpose: Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common and extremely burdensome skin disorder with limited therapeutic options. Ultraviolet (UV) phototherapy is a well tolerated, efficacious treatment for AD, but its use is limited by a lack of guidelines in the optimal choice of modality and dosing. Given this deficit, we aim to develop suggestions for the treatment of AD with phototherapy by systematically reviewing the current medical literature.

Data sources: All data sources were identified through searches of MEDLINE via the Ovid interface, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and a complementary manual literature search.

Study selection: Studies selected for review met these inclusion criteria, as applied by multiple reviewers: controlled clinical trials of UV phototherapy in the management of AD in human subjects as reported in the English-language literature. Studies limited to hand dermatitis and studies in which subjects were allowed unmonitored use of topical corticosteroids or immunomodulators were excluded.

Data extraction: Included studies were assessed by multiple independent observers who extracted and compiled the following data: number of patients, duration of treatment, cumulative doses of UV radiation, adverse effects, and study results. Data quality was assessed by comparing data sets and rechecking source materials if a discrepancy occurred.

Results: Nine trials that met the inclusion criteria were identified. Three studies demonstrated that UVA1 is both faster and more efficacious than combined UVAB for treating acute AD. Two trials disclosed the advantages of medium dose (50 J/cm(2)) UVA1 for treating acute AD. Two trials revealed the superiority of combined UVAB in the management of chronic AD. Two additional studies demonstrated that narrow-band UVB is more effective than either broad-band UVA or UVA1 for managing chronic AD.

Conclusion: On the basis of available evidence, the following suggestions can be made: phototherapy with medium-dose (50 J/cm(2)) UVA1, if available, should be used to control acute flares of AD while UVB modalities, specifically narrow-band UVB, should be used for the management of chronic AD.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Ultraviolet Therapy / adverse effects
  • Ultraviolet Therapy / methods*