A clinical review of phototherapy for psoriasis

Lasers Med Sci. 2018 Jan;33(1):173-180. doi: 10.1007/s10103-017-2360-1. Epub 2017 Oct 24.


Psoriasis is an autoimmune inflammatory skin disease. In the past several decades, phototherapy has been widely used to treat stable psoriatic lesions, including trunk, scalp, arms and legs, and partial nail psoriasis. A variety of light/lasers with different mechanisms of action have been developed for psoriasis including ultraviolet B (UVB), psoralen ultraviolet A (PUVA), pulsed dye laser (PDL), photodynamic therapy (PDT), intense pulsed light (IPL), light-emitting diodes (LED), and so on. Because light/laser each has specific therapeutic and adverse effects, it is important to adequately choose the sources and parameters in management of psoriasis with different pathogenic sites, severities, and duration of the disorder. This review aims at providing most updated clinic information to physicians about how to select light/laser sources and individual therapeutic regimens. To date, UV light is primarily for stable plaque psoriasis and PDL for topical psoriatic lesions with small area, both of which are safe and effective. On the other hand, PUVA has better curative effects than UVB for managing refractory psoriasis plaques, if its side effects can be better controlled. PDL provides optimal outcomes on nail psoriasis compared with other lasers. Although the trails of low-level light/laser therapy (LLLT) are still small, the near infrared (NIR) and visible red light with low energy show promise for treating psoriasis due to its strong penetration and encouraging photobiomodulation. IPL is rarely reported for psoriasis treatment, but PDT-IPL has been found to offer a moderate effect on nail psoriasis. In brief, various phototherapies have been used either in different combinations or as monotherapy. The modality has become a mainstay in the treatment of mild-to-moderate psoriasis without systemic adverse events in today's clinical practice.

Keywords: Laser; Low-level light/laser; Phototherapy; Psoriasis; Ultraviolet.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Low-Level Light Therapy
  • Nail Diseases / pathology
  • Nail Diseases / radiotherapy
  • Phototherapy*
  • Psoriasis / pathology
  • Psoriasis / radiotherapy*
  • Risk Factors
  • Ultraviolet Therapy