Towards mid-2002, Chinmay Biswas, an executive with Hindustan Petroleum, noticed a scaly, reddish plaque on his legs, that also itched badly. Within months, the spots spread all over his body. Apart from the itching and irritation, the slightest touch would result in bleeding and pain, not to mention the embarrassment of the unsightly blemishes.
Doctors diagnosed his condition as ‘psoriasis’, a disease characterised by excessive growth of skin. Countless trips to city doctors, who prescribed one regimen after the other, in the form of ointments, tablets, capsules and injections, proved futile. But, with the boon of modern technology, he is now 85 per cent cured.
This cutting-edge treatment for Biswas came in the form of ultra-violet (UV) ray therapy, conducted on a regular basis at the Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals off the EM Bypass. “When patients fail to respond to conventional therapies, as in the case of Biswas, we opt for UV therapy,” explains consultant dermatologist Sachin Verma, who operates the city’s “only self-controlled, automated UV chamber with narrow-band UV B and A” at Apollo Gleneagles.
“The cause of psoriasis is unclear and it is seldom preventable. However, the misery of the patients and their family can hardly be described,” said Verma, who supervised Biswas’ treatment. “We have cured a wide range of skin ailments with a calculated and controlled dose of UV rays,” he adds.
Using UV rays for treating skin disorders was first practised in the 19th Century by Danish scientist Finsen. Extensive research over the years helped refine the method.
Normally, two kinds of UV rays — UV A and B — are used in therapy. While UV rays are known to cause a variety of skin ailments, including cancers, paradoxically, the same rays prove to be “most effective” in ailments like photodermatitis, skin tan, leukoderma or vitiligo, polymorphic light eruptions, etc, caused by excessive exposure to the sun.
“The science behind this paradox lies in the age-old theory of using a low-dose poison to immunise oneself against the stronger one,” explains Verma. In this case, the poison comes in the form of sunlight, which one can hardly avoid in our climate. The therapy is very effective and comes without any side effects, if administered judiciously, he adds.
The affected parts exposed, the patient stands in a small chamber fitted with UV tubes. The doctor calculates the dose, duration and type of ray to be administered. A pair of goggles with special glasses, which shield the UV rays completely, protects the patient's eyes.