Qualicum Beach physician Andy Biro wants to shine a light on a heartbreaking condition.
That condition is psoriasis, an autoimmune problem that leads to red, itchy and scaly patches of skin that can cover a little, a lot or even nearly all of the body.
The light he wants to shine isn’t metaphorical. It’s real and, he said, it makes a very real difference to those who suffer from the condition.
Psoriasis has no cure and Biro, who heads up the Elderwood Medical Clinic in Qualicum Beach, said traditional treatments for the condition can be tough on the patient.
“People are either given topical therapies such as potent stereoids or expensive creams and ointments, or they can even take oral medications that are anti-cancer agents, which make you feel just terrible for a day or two a week,” he said. “Would you rather go through that or stand in a booth for a few minutes, a few times per week?”
That booth is his UVB phototherapy unit, which bathes the sufferer in a special spectrum of ultraviolet light.
It makes a difference.
“For the last decade or so it has been noted that people with psoriasis and certain other skin conditions like eczema get better in the summer time,” he said. “It turns out that part of the ultraviolet spectrum of a specific wavelength suppresses the autoimmune reaction that underpins psoriasis and people get improvement with exposure.”
The ultraviolet spectrum of light, he added, is divided into two parts, UVA and UVB.
“The UVA has the tanning capability, whereas UVB actually penetrates deeper and is usually the component of our sun’s rays that is responsible for burning,” he said.
The treatment involves the use of one of two machines, a large, walk-in unit somewhat akin to an upended tanning booth and a smaller unit that’s designed to treat hands and feet — common sites for psoriasis outbreaks.
“Psoriasis is the most common condition treated this way, but certain forms of eczema and other itchy skin conditions nad a smaller list of less common conditions are treated successfully with light,” he said. “Psoriasis makes up about 80 per cent of the treatments and eczema makes another 15 per cent.”
The downside of the treatment, he said, is that it needs to be repeated as many as three times per week in the initial stages.