What is ultraviolet (UV) phototherapy ?
Ultraviolet phototherapy is the use of specific wavelengths of the sun's natural spectrum for the treatment of skin disorders such as psoriasis, vitiligo and atopic dermatitis (eczema).
Phototherapy devices use either the short wavelength Ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays or the longer rays of Ultraviolet-A (UVA).
UVB light produces biological reactions within the skin that lead to clearing of the lesions.
UVB is also the waveband of light that produces Vitamin-D in our skin; essential to good health.
How long has ultraviolet phototherapy treatment been used ?
The benefits of UV phototherapy for psoriasis was recognized by the medical community as early as
1925 by a study of the effects of natural sunlight on psoriasis patients.
Devices to produce artificial light for the treatment of psoriasis have been in use for over
60 years and today there is a phototherapy clinic in most cities,
usually in a hosptital or a dermatologist's office.
Home units are a more recent phenomenon, as lower costs have made them more attainable to the average person.
This remarkable ancient Egyptian wall carving shows a sick infant being treated with sunlight,
probably for infant jaundice (hyperbilirubinaemia).
Today, affected babies receive the same treatment, albeit from artificial light sources.
The therapeutic rays are in the UVA spectrum in this case.
Our bodies evolved in an environment bathed in ultraviolet light,
so we developed responses to use the light beneficially (vitamin D photosynthesis)
and to protect us from over-exposure (tanning).
Our modern lifestyles; being fully clothed, having protection from the sun,
and many of us living in extreme northern/southern latitudes;
has significantly reduced our UV exposure, and contributed to health problems in some.
Will home UVB phototherapy work for me ?
The best way to determine if home UVB phototherapy will work for you is to first get a proper diagnosis from your physician,
and, if warranted, take treatments at a phototherapy clinic near you to establish efficacy.
SolRx devices use exactly the same UV bulbs as used in the clinic,
so if the clinic treatments prove successful,
there is an excellent chance that home phototherapy will also work,
as supported by this medical study of twenty-five SolRx UVB-Narrowband home units in the Ottawa area:
"Are Narrow-band Ultraviolet B Home Units a Viable Option for Continuous or Maintenance Therapy of Photoresponsive Skin Diseases?"
If you cannot attend a phototherapy clinic,
your response to natural sunlight is usually a good indicator.
Does your skin condition get better in the summer?
Have you ever deliberately taken sun exposure to improve your skin?
Do you take vacations to sunny climates to clear your skin?
Have you had some success clearing your psoriasis using tanning equipment?
Note: Cosmetic tanning equipment emits mostly UVA light
(which by itself is not effective for psoriasis),
AND just a small amount of UVB (up to a government regulated maximum of approximately 8%),
so some psoriasis patients get benefit from tanning;
albeit along with a large amount of unnecessary UVA energy.
For hundreds of comments from actual home phototherapy users,
visit one of our testimonials webpages:
Should I be using UVA or UVB for home phototherapy ?
For almost everyone, UVB is the best treatment option,
and almost always the phototherapy treatment tried first.
UVA is less desirable because it requires the use of the drug methoxsalen (Psoralen),
taken orally or in a pre-treatment "bath",
and carefully measured doses of UVA light using a light meter.
These so-called "PUVA" treatments have more side-effects
and are much more difficult to administer in the home than UVB.
PUVA is therefore usually reserved for the very worst cases and is best done in a clinic.
UVB home phototherapy does not require use of any drug to be effective,
and does NOT require use of a UVB light meter.
UVB home phototherapy can also be used in combination with topical drugs applied
directly to the lesions for greater efficacy,
best applied AFTER the phototherapy session.
For example: tar preparations (LCD), steroids and calcipotriene
(Dovonex, Dovobet, Taclonex).
What is the difference between UVB "Broadband" and UVB "Narrowband" ?
Conventional "Broadband" UVB bulbs emit light in a broad range that includes both the therapeutic wavelengths specific to the treatment of skin diseases plus the shorter wavelengths responsible for sunburning.
Sunburning has a negative therapeutic benefit,
increases the risk of skin cancer, and limits the amount of therapeutic UVB that can be taken.
"Narrowband" UVB bulbs, on the other hand,
emit light over a very short range of wavelengths concentrated primarily in the therapeutic range.
UVB Narrowband is therefore theoretically safer and more effective than UVB Broadband,
but requires either longer treatment times or equipment with more bulbs to achieve the same dosage threshold.
UVB Narrowband now dominates worldwide new equipment sales
(about 98% of all Solarc devices are now UVB-Narrowband),
but UVB Broadband will likely always have a role for more difficult cases.
Solarc's UVB-Narrowband models have an "UVB-NB" suffix in the model number.
Broadband models have the "UVB" suffix only.
Understanding Narrowband UVB Phototherapy for more information.
If necessary, can I switch the UV waveband type in a SolRx device ?
All four(4) SolRx device families can interchangeably use bulbs of any of the four(4) waveband types:
UVB-Narrowband, UVB-Broadband, UVA (350BL) and UVA-1 (365nm peak);
however, Solarc does not produce any UVA or UVA-1 Users Manuals,
so it will be necessary for you to obtain exposure guidelines from your physician.
When changing waveband types it is also important to change the device's labeling to list the correct waveband type.
How safe is ultraviolet phototherapy ?
As with natural sunlight,
repeated exposure to ultraviolet light can cause premature aging of the skin and skin cancer.
However, when these risks are weighed against the risks of other treatment options,
often involving strong prescription drugs or even injections,
ultraviolet phototherapy is usually found to be the best treatment option,
or at least the treatment option tried after topical drugs
such as steroids and dovonex have proven minimally effective.
In some jurisdictions, UVB phototherapy must be attempted before "biologic" drugs can be prescribed.
SolRx devices use exactly the same bulbs as the phototherapy devices in clinics,
hospitals and doctor’s offices.
The decision to use home phototherapy is, of course,
an individual matter that requires initial physician consultation and periodic follow-up.
Another safety issue is eye protection.
Ultraviolet light can severely damage eyes,
so the protective eyewear supplied with every SolRx device must be worn during every treatment.
How do I take a treatment ?
For 6-foot high Full-Body devices such as the
the patient covers any areas of the body not requiring exposure and puts on the ultraviolet protective goggles.
Standing 8 to 12 inches from the device, the key is put in and turned to the ON position.
The timer is set to the desired treatment time for one side (or treatment position),
the START button is pressed and the lights go on.
When the first treatment position is complete, the lights turn off automatically.
The patient then repositions, and repeats for the other treatment positions.
The whole procedure takes little more than the time actually spent under the bulbs.
Many people take their treatment immediately after a shower,
which has the added benefit of exfoliating dead skin to improve light transmission to the lesions.
For 500 Series devices, the procedure is similar,
but positioning is different depending on hand/foot use or spot treatment.
Likewise for the 100 Series Handheld unit.
For all devices, it is important to not significantly overlap treatment areas
because this may cause localized overexposure.
How often are treatments taken and how long are the treatment times ?
In all cases,
the patient always starts with a sufficiently low treatment time to ensure they will not get a skin-burn,
in the order of just seconds long.
Then, if treatments are taken on a regular basis per the treatment schedule,
treatment times are gradually increased possibly up to several minutes long where, at most,
the skin exhibits the onset of a very mild burn.
The results of each treatment is used to determine the treatment time for the next treatment,
and the patient continues treatments on this basis until the skin condition improves,
which can take 40 or more treatments over several months or more.
Then, to maintain the skin, treatment times and frequency are usually reduced as
the patient finds a balance between minimizing ultraviolet light exposure and the condition of their skin.
For psoriasis, the initial treatment time is based on the patient's skin-type
(light to dark skin).
During the "clearing" phase, treatments are taken 3 to 5 times per week.
After significant clearing is achieved, the "maintenance" phase begins;
treatments are taken anywhere from three times per week to not at all and times are reduced accordingly.
For vitiligo, treatments are usually taken twice per week,
never on consecutive days.
Treatment times are much less than those for psoriasis.
For atopic-dermatitis (eczema), treatments are usually taken 2 or 3 times per week,
never on consecutive days.
Treatment times are in between those for psoriasis and vitiligo.
The SolRx UVB-Narrowband and UVB-Broadband User's Manuals are complete with
detailed exposure guideline tables for psoriasis, vitiligo and atopic-dermatitis (eczema).
Exposure guidelines for vitamin-D phototherapy are provided by a supplemental document.
How long does it take to get results ?
This is of course an individual matter,
but typically some remission is evident after only a few weeks.
More advanced clearing requires two to six months.
Long term low-dose maintenance can go on for many years as determined by the supervising physician.
What are my options if the Solarc UVB lamp does not work?
Solarc does a follow-up with every customer to determine if the device was effective. From this we know that over 95% of patients achieve success.
For the patients that do not achieve success, we recommend that they see a physician/dermatologist to discuss the results and make treatment changes
if warranted. If the device is no longer useful, Solarc offers a free ad placement on our
USA Used Devices
webpage for whatever length of time
you need to sell the device. Solarc prefers to keep these devices helping people with skin problems, even if it means a loss sale or two for us.
Is it possible to treat the eyelids ?
Ultraviolet light can severely damage eyes,
so the protective eyewear supplied with every SolRx device must be worn during every treatment.
However, to quote from Dr. Warwick Morison's book: Phototherapy and Photochemotherapy of Skin Disease;
"An occasional exception may be made in patients with recalcitrant disease of the eyelids or
periorbital skin at the discretion of the physician."
So with physician guidance, it MAY be reasonable to irradiate the eyelids,
but only if the eyelids are held closed shut for the entire treatment so no ultraviolet light reaches the eye directly.
The skin of the eyelid is thick enough that no UVB light reaches through the eyelid skin to the eye.
What are the advantages of home phototherapy ?
The greatest advantage of home phototherapy is the tremendous time savings it allows
while still providing totally effective phototherapy treatment.
For those that have been going to a phototherapy clinic,
the convenience of home treatment eliminates scheduling problems and traveling costs,
and makes missed visits a thing of the past.
Check out this
Home UVB-Narrowband medical study
of twenty-five SolRx devices in the Ottawa area.
For those living too far from a phototherapy clinic, a home UVB unit may be the only real option.
See what actual home phototherapy users have to say;
visit one of our testimonials webpages:
Note: As a condition of sale, use of a Solarc home phototherapy device requires regular follow-up
skin examinations by a physician at least once per year.
What SolRx model should I buy ?
There are several considerations when choosing a SolRx phototherapy device model.
We have a web page dedicated to helping you make the right choice.
Please see our
Home Phototherapy Selection Guide
How much room do I need for a SolRx 1000-Series Full Body Panel ?
Full Body Panel is designed to take up a minimum amount of space in your home.
They are only 3˝" thick by 29" wide and mount flat up against a wall,
or in a corner, with the bottom resting on the floor.
Casters are not practical because they must have a wide wheelbase to keep the unit from tipping over,
and therefore greatly increase the floor space needed.
Casters also increase the distance between the bottom of the bulbs and the floor,
making a platform necessary for lower leg treatment.
Our considerable experience has been that once the device is mounted,
it is out of the way and there is little need to have it moved.
The author's personal 1000 Series unit has been in the same place for nearly 20 years.
How much room do I need for a SolRx E-Series Expandable/Multidirectional System ?
is an EXPANDABLE system that can be the absolutely smallest 6-foot high full-body device
if only the 2-bulb MASTER device is used,
as it measures just 3" thick by 12.5" wide,
and mounts flat against a wall just like the 1000-Series.
As more E-Series devices are added (all the same size),
the system expands and is adjusted so it surrounds the patient's body,
which takes up more floor space, but can then be folded-up for storage.
The E-Series has many possible
each taking up different amounts of floor-space,
but all able to be folded-up for storage.
What are the electrical requirements ?
All SolRx phototherapy Units plug into any standard 120 Volt grounded (three prong)
electrical outlet common to almost all homes in North America.
There are no special electrical requirements.
The AC Current ratings at 120Vac are:
E-Series Expandable: A total of five(5) 2-bulb devices can be electrically connected together,
totally about 8 amps.
1000 Series Full body models: 1740 = 3.1 amps, 1760 = 4.7 amps, 1780 = 6.3 amps, 1790 = 7.9 amps.
500 Series Hand/Foot & Spot models: 520 = 0.7 amps, 530 = 0.9 amps, 550 = 1.6 amps.
100 Series Hand-held model 120: = 0.4 amps.
Most homes in North America use 15 amp circuit breakers.
Are the SolRx models with more bulbs physically larger devices ?
No. For a given device family,
all models use the same steel frame components and differ only in the number of bulbs installed.
For example, the eight-bulb 1780 uses the same main frame as a four-bulb 1740,
but the bulbs are packed in much tighter to increase the device irradiance
(light power density) and reduce treatment times.
Devices with more bulbs will also have more ballasts, and weigh more.
Does Solarc make any 4-foot high devices ?
Not any more.
We used to make a 1000-Series model called the "1440" that used four 4-foot long T12 bulbs,
but because 4-foot bulbs are only 40-watts each
(compared to 6-foot bulbs at 100-watts each - 2.5 times more powerful)
the device had much lower total power than our 6-foot devices with only minimal cost savings.
In fact, we actually now pay more for PHILIPS 4-foot TL40W/01 UVB-Narrowband bulbs than
PHILIPS 6-foot TL100W/01 UVB-Narrowband bulbs.
So 4-foot high devices are technically obsolete.
Instead, to provide the lower cost device that many patients need,
we turned focus to development of the
SolRx E-Series EXPANDABLE System,
which with only one MASTER device can provide effective full body home phototherapy with only two 6-foot bulbs
(200-watts total versus 1440 at 160-watts),
and later be expanded as needed.
Do these devices produce a lot of heat ?
No. All SolRx Phototherapy units use modern fluorescent bulbs and electronic ballasts where possible.
They produce about as much heat as any other similar sized fluorescent bulb.
However, filaments inside the bulbs cause the ends of the bulbs to locally get quite hot,
so the bulbs should obviously not be touched, especially at the ends.
Will I get a tan using a home UVB phototherapy device ?
Some people report that they get a tan and others don't.
UVB is known to create more melanocytes in your skin,
the cells needed for maximum skin darkening,
but UVA light is the primary contributor to tanning.
Dosages also play an important role.
The SolRx Users Manual provides conservative treatment times.
Excessive tanning has not been reported.
More likely is some temporary skin reddening if the dosage approaches its maximum. (erythema)
Will the UV light fade colours in the room ?
It is a fact that prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light will fade colours.
However, this requires considerable cumulative amounts of UV light.
Because a home UVB unit is used relatively infrequently,
(as compared to exterior paint exposed to daily sunlight),
our practical experience is that colour fading is not an issue.
If it occurs, it is barely perceptible.
The only possible exception to this is that fine art should be protected.
How long do the UV bulbs last ?
Under normal home phototherapy usage,
the bulbs have a useful life of at least three to five years, and as many as ten years.
Fluorescent bulbs gradually lose power over time so that over many years,
treatment times are perhaps double that of new bulbs,
but the type of light remains consistent (has nearly the same relative spectroradiometric profile).
The decision to replace bulbs is therefore only a matter of the patient's tolerance of longer treatment times.
UVB lamps are very specialized and cost CDN$50 to $120 each, depending on type.
Why are the UVB bulbs so expensive ?
There are several reasons why medical fluorescent UVB bulbs are expensive:
To allow passage of the UVB light, expensive and sometimes difficult to obtain quartz glass must be used.
Standard glass filters out UVB light.
Medical UVB bulbs are produced in much smaller quantities than other fluorescent bulb types.
Medical products are subject to higher regulatory standards, controlled distribution and greater compliance costs.
In the case of Philips TL/01 UVB-Narrowband bulbs,
the phosphor (white powder) within the bulb is expensive to produce and has legacy development expenses.
The bulbs are fragile and subject to shipping damage losses.
What maintenance does a home phototherapy device require ?
The only maintenance that is required is the occasional cleaning of the bulbs
and reflectors using any common glass cleaner.
We also recommend checking the accuracy of the digital timer periodically.
Appropriate maintenance instructions are given in the SolRx Users Manual.
What is the warranty ?
Solarc is ISO-13485 (medical device) certified.
We use only the highest quality components and manufacturing methods in the construction of the SolRx Home Units.
These devices have an excellent track record of reliability and boast a four year warranty on the device
and an unequalled one year limited warranty on the bulbs.
Click here for our
What if the unit arrives damaged ?
Any product containing glass bulbs is at risk of shipping damage.
Our shipping containers are highly developed and heavy duty, but yes,
there are times when damage does occur.
In the vast majority of cases, this is simply a broken bulb(s).
policy is to immediately ship the replacement bulbs
(or any other part if necessary) at no cost to the customer.
We ask that the customer make the repairs on site.
Solarc reserves the right to request proof of the damage.
Does Solarc Systems ship to the USA ?
Routinely. All Solarc/SolRx devices are
Payment is made in US dollars using the US Order Form.
The amount listed is all that you pay,
freight and brokerage included.
The devices are NAFTA eligible and duty free.
Solarc does not collect any US taxes.
If US taxes are payable, they are payable by the purchaser.
Does Solarc Systems ship Internationally ?
Yes! For many years we have been using the same reliable freight forwarder to
ship Solarc equipment all over the world, including to many remote locations.
We have devices in over 50 different countries and counting !
Please see our
webpage for more information.
We are always happy to help our friends worldwide.
Will my insurance company help with the cost ?
Many insurance companies recognize home phototherapy equipment as 'Durable Medical Equipment' (DME),
and will help with some or all of the initial purchase.
Sometimes; however, this requires considerable persistence because "home phototherapy device"
is usually not on the insurance company’s list of pre-approved devices.
The best results are usually obtained by referring the request to more senior human resources staff,
and making the case that the device will save their drug costs while improving your quality of life.
A Doctor’s letter to that effect is also useful.
Solarc continues to work at getting all insurance companies to cover this equipment.
See also our "
Tips for Insurance Reimbursement
I live in the USA; why do I need a prescription ? Do others need a prescription?
Prescriptions are MANDATORY for all shipments to USA addresses,
and OPTIONAL for Canadian and International shipments.
In the USA, this is strictly mandated by the US Code of Federal Regulations [21CFR801.109]
In Canada and the rest of the world, no such legal requirement exists
as device safety and effectiveness has been proven over many years.
A prescription is NOT required for Canadians to claim the Medical Expense Tax Credit on their income taxes,
but may be useful for an employer health insurance claim.
Even without the need for a prescription, there remains a very important role for the physician.
Solarc Systems Inc. strongly advises the Responsible Person to seek
the advice of a physician.
The physician's diagnosis is needed to determine if UVB phototherapy is the best treatment option
The physician is in the best position to judge if the patient is likely use the device responsibly
The physician plays a role in the ongoing safe use of the device, including regular follow-up skin exams.
Note: The prescription does not have to come from a dermatologist; any medical doctor (MD) is acceptable.
How Do I Place An Order?
Solarc Systems requires the following to complete an order for Home Phototherapy equipment:
Fax (705-739-9684), Scan & Email, or Mail your order to Solarc Systems using the contact information that appears in the top left corner of the Order Form.
We will acknowledge your order as soon as it is received.
- If applicable,
a physician’s prescription, ideally indicating the waveband type
(UVB-Narrowband or UVB-Broadband) and the Solarc device family or model number
OR the completed "Physician’s Approval" section of the Order Form.
The physician does NOT have to be a dermatologist; any medical doctor (MD) is acceptable.
Keep a copy of your prescription for your records.
- The Solarc Order Form completed by the patient or responsible person,
including the signed Terms & Conditions of Sale;
- Payment by VISA, Mastercard or cheque payable to: "Solarc Systems Inc.".
Certified cheques and bank drafts are processed immediately.
Personal cheques may require 5-10 business days for clearance before shipping.
Other forms of payment such a wire transfer are also acceptable.
Shipping is normally from stock,
next day direct to your home and takes one to nine working days depending on the destination.
It takes about 20 minutes to unpack and setup an
E-Series, 1000-Series or 500-Series device.
100-Series Handheld units are ready to go.
Full instructions are provided.
An invoice marked "Paid" is supplied for submission to your insurer or for tax purposes.
For a complete ordering procedure, see our " Home Phototherapy Ordering Information " page.