How Much Does Phototherapy Cost Without Insurance?
Phototherapy can be done in-office or at home and requires multiple sessions to see results. However, depending on the condition, you're treating and the number of sessions, phototherapy treatment can cost $200 to $21,000 per year.
Cost of Phototherapy Treatment
Phototherapy is a medical treatment that uses natural or artificial light to treat conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The cost of phototherapy treatment depends on several factors, including the type of treatment and severity of your condition. Phototherapy can be done at home or in-office and can cost anywhere from $200 dollars to $21,000 per year. In-office treatments are typically covered by private insurance plans as well as Medicaid and medicare. However, at-home treatments are less likely to be covered by insurance and can be more expensive due to machine costs.
At-Home vs. In-Office Cost Comparison
|Type of Treatment||Average Cost Per Year|
|At-Home Phototherapy Unit||$4,590|
|In-Office Phototherapy Treatment||$21,271|
Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center
About Phototherapy Treatment
Phototherapy utilizes natural and artificial light to improve conditions such as psoriasis, vitiligo, jaundice, mood and sleep disorders, cancer, precancers, and skin-related side effects from cancer. Several types of phototherapy treatment involve fluorescent light, halogen light, sunlight, or light emitting diodes (LEDs).
Source: Very Well Health
Phototherapy for Skin Disorders
One of the many uses for Phototherapy is to treat common skin conditions such as
The goal of phototherapy is to use ultraviolet light to slow skin cell growth and reduce overall inflammation, in which inflammation is a bodily response to infections, injuries, and viruses. UVB rays focus on the outer layer of the skin, while UVA rays, although not as intense, target deep layers of the skin.
Three main types of light therapy are used to treat skin disorders: Broadband UVB, Narrowband UVB, and PUVA.
Broadband UVB utilizes several different types of UVB rays. UVB rays are commonly present in sunlight.
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Narrowband UVB are smaller types of rays that can be found in sunlight as well as through different at-home light options. Narrowband release ultraviolet rays, one of the most common types of light therapy.
PUVA or ultraviolet-A combines UVA light and a plant-based chemical called psoralen that is either applied to the skin or taken orally to make your skin more sensitive to light.
The effects of phototherapy for skin disorders are not permanent but do offer some temporary relief. Experts recommend six to eight sessions and up to two months to see results.
Phototherapy for Mood and Sleep Disorders
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a common type of depression linked to seasons of the year, typically beginning in the fall and lasting through the winter and early spring season. Light therapy for SAD involves a lightbox, which is a specially designed lamp box that emits a steady soft light.
SAD Light therapy is one of the more inexpensive phototherapy treatments that can be highly effective when used in addition to prescribed antidepressant medications. In some cases, light therapy can allow you to lower the amount of medication you are using. However, you should always consult with your healthcare provider before changing your medications. It's important to note that light therapy for SAD can lead to several side effects, such as:
Fatigue or tiredness
If you have a sleep disorder such as delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) – can’t fall asleep until the middle of the night or close to sunrise– light therapy can help you get to a more regular sleep pattern if you are interested in using light therapy to fix your sleep pattern, its best to seek out the help of a sleep specialist that can figure out the best time to use the lightbox.
Phototherapy for Cancers and Precancers
Photodynamic therapy is used to treat certain types of cancer and precancer and involves using photosensitizer drugs along with light therapy. Photosensitizers are applied to the skin before treatment and activated by blue or red light to help kill cancerous cells. Photodynamic therapy can treat conditions such as:
Endobronchial Cancer ( type of lung cancer)
Barretts Esophagus (a precancerous condition caused by acid reflux)
Unlike other cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy, photodynamic therapy typically does not have long-term side effects and leaves less scarring than surgical procedures. Additionally, photodynamic therapy costs much less than traditional cancer treatment options. However, one downside to photodynamic therapy is that it only works on areas on or under the skin and does not help with cancers that can spread across the body.
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Phototherapy Treatment FAQ(S)
Below are some commonly asked questions about phototherapy treatment and side effects.
What are the Side Effects of Phototherapy Treatment?
Besides the condition-specific side effects listed above, light therapy, in general, carries some risk. UV rays can damage your healthy skin cells and cause your skin to age prematurely; this is known as photoaging. Additionally, being exposed to high amounts of artificial UV light can increase your risk for skin cancer; Recent studies have found that PUVA has a greater risk than narrowband UVB..
Who Should Avoid Phototherapy Treatment?
Although light therapy is a safe treatment option, people with certain health conditions may need to avoid light therapy or take extra precautions. If you have the following conditions, consult with your healthcare provider before undergoing light therapy:
Pregnant or Breastfeeding
Family History of Skin Cancer
Can Phototherapy Cause Cancer?
Any exposure to UV rays presents a risk for skin cancer, and phototherapy is no expectation. However, it's important to note that the risk for cancer is very small. Current research on patients using phototherapy does not show an increased risk for skin cancer. While undergoing treatment, you can take extra steps to protect areas of the skin that are not being treated and avoid extra sun exposure.
Phototherapy and photodynamic therapy are great alternatives to traditional cancer treatments and can also be used to target several skin conditions and mood disorders. While in-office phototherapy treatment is typically covered by insurance, the option to set up an at-home system allows for greater flexibility of treatment time and reduced annual cost. With intentional UV ray exposure, it's important to consult with your healthcare provider before starting the treatment to make sure your underlying conditions do not create a greater health risk. Additionally, if you choose at-home treatment, keep you in the loop and up-to-date with your treatment routine.
Deciding what treatment or combination of treatments is best for your health can be stressful, and figuring out the cost of care — be it at-home or in-office phototherapy — can be even more overwhelming. However, having access to affordable and comprehensive care can decrease those overwhelming feelings. That's where Mira comes in. For as little as $45 per month, you get access to low-cost primary and urgent, discounted prescription medications and lab testing. Sign up Today!
Originally from Houston, Texas, Alexandra is currently getting her Master's in Public Health with a health policy certificate at Columbia University. One of her life goals is to own her own art gallery!