Phototherapy involves exposure to specific wavelengths of artificial ultraviolet light, which may be ultraviolet B (UVB), ultraviolet A (UVA), or a combination of both. Phototherapy may be effective for older children and adults with mild to moderate atopic dermatitis. More severe atopic dermatitis can be treated with UVA in combination with a medication called psoralen. Psoralen is an oral or topical medication that makes the body more sensitive to light. This treatment is known as PUVA.

Phototherapy treatments are usually given several times per week for one or several months. It is generally done at a clinic or in your doctor's office with a specialized light panel or light box. In some cases, you may be able to use a recommended light box or light panel in your home with your doctor’s guidance.

Possible long-term side effects of phototherapy include premature aging of your skin and skin cancer, especially with PUVA.

Other Medications

If other treatments fail to improve atopic dermatitis, a number of other medications may be tried. Each of these has specific risks and benefits. Discuss them with your doctor. Examples of such medications include:

  • Intravenous immunoglobulin
  • Mycophenolate Mofetil
  • Alitretinoin

Dietary Changes

Your doctor may advise you to make dietary changes. These may include avoiding possible triggers or irritants. Dietary changes may also involve taking supplements.


If you or your child is suffering from eczema, you may want to seek counseling and support groups and services. There are many professionals and organizations that can provide help and support in coping with the stresses of eczema.


Atopic dermatitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated July 3, 2017. Accessed December 21, 2017.

Emollients. National Eczema Society website. Available at: Accessed December 21, 2017.

Meduri NB, Vandergriff T, et al. Phototherapy in the management of atopic dermatitis: a systematic review. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2007 Aug;23(4):106-112.

Plötz S, Wiesender M, et al. What is new in atopic dermatitis/eczema? Expert Opin Emerg Drugs. 2014 Dec;19(4):441-58.

Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods MD, FAAP