Persistent itching; scaling of the skin that peels off, leaving the skin raw; leucoderma, causing ugly white patches on the skin; eczema, causing rashes… The popular treatment for these dermatological ailments is oral medication, local application of creams and exposure to the sun.
The catch is, the amount of sunlight required as part of the treatment is not always calculable, but is prescribed on a trial-and-error basis, and the medication is not suitable for children under the age of 12 and pregnant women. In addition, the patient has to always wear sunglasses whenever he or she goes out in the sun, to protect the eyes.
Narrow Band Ultraviolet B Therapy machines, widely used in Europe and the US for these skin problems, is now in Calcutta, at the Nova clinic, on Sarat Bose Road, supplied by the German company Waldmann. And after two weeks in use, things are “progressing well”, according to Dr A.K. Prasad of the clinic.
“We have about four patients for UVB therapy at the moment, all undergoing treatment for vitiligo, commonly known as leucoderma. They have about two or three sessions a week. Although it’s too early for any concrete developments, it’s progressing well,” he adds.
One of the advantages of UVB therapy is that there is no exposure to sunlight required, and the amount of narrow-band light is calculable, on a “step-by-step” basis, gradually increasing the dosage as and when required, till the affected area of the skin takes on a “pinkish hue”. However, over-exposure to the light can cause a burning sensation.
“Medication is not generally used with UVB therapy. We will only prescribe it to our patients if there is no response to the treatment or if the condition is severe. So, everyone can be treated through this procedure, including babies and expectant mothers,” Prasad explains.
The machine emits light of 311 nanometres bandwidth. The patient is exposed to it for a few minutes at a time. Although sunglasses are required during the procedure, at other times, it is not necessary, because oral medication is not used. So, despite being relatively new in the city, “if the results are good, people will pour in,” sums up Prasad.