(Reuters Health) – Laser therapy that delivers a concentrated beam of ultraviolet light may help ease a hard-to-treat form of eczema, a small study suggests.
The study, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, compared the effects of laser therapy versus corticosteroid ointment in 13 patients with what is known as the prurigo form of atopic dermatitis.
Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema, or skin inflammation, that arises from an allergic reaction; the prurigo form is marked by small, hard, intensely itchy nodules on the skin.
Only a small proportion of people with atopic dermatitis have the prurigo form, but the condition can be challenging to manage, according to Dr. Elian E.A. Brenninkmeijer, a dermatologist at the University of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, and the lead researcher on the study.
The current findings, while based on only a small number of patients, suggest that when topical treatments fail to improve prurigo atopic dermatitis, laser therapy may be a suitable option, Brenninkmeijer told Reuters Health in an email.
Specifically, a device called the 308-nm excimer laser is approved in the U.S. for treating atopic dermatitis and certain other skin conditions, including psoriasis and vitiligo. It works by emitting a concentrated beam of ultraviolet B (UVB) light directly to patches of affected skin, avoiding the healthy surrounding skin.
UVB light has long been used to treat some cases of atopic dermatitis; it is thought to help by quelling the exaggerated immune response causing the skin inflammation. The purported advantage of the excimer laser over traditional UVB therapy is that it more precisely targets the problem areas of the skin.
However, there are only limited study data on the effectiveness of the laser therapy for atopic dermatitis, and almost nothing known about how it works for the prurigo form.
To investigate, Brenninkmeijer and his colleagues recruited 13 adults with atopic dermatitis and prurigo nodules on the upper or lower extremities on both sides of the body.
Over 10 weeks, the patients received twice-weekly laser treatments on one side of the body, and used prescription corticosteroid ointment — clobetasol propionate — on the other side of the body. Both the laser treatment and the ointment were applied directly to the prurigo nodules.Read More