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Medically reviewed by Dr. Samuel Sarmiento, M.D., MPH on August 3, 2023

For treating patients with chronic pruritus, narrowband ultraviolet B was found to be equivalent to broadband ultraviolet B.

In inflammatory skin conditions, phototherapy is an important treatment technique. Ultraviolet light therapy may reduce pruritus in people who suffer from chronic pruritus (CP), whether or not they have pruritus-related skin lesions. Whether NB-UBV or BB-UVB is more effective is still debatable.

A recent study published in the journal Acta Dermato-Venereologica compared the effects of narrowband ultraviolet B to those of broadband ultraviolet B.

Study Design and Population

In this randomized control trial between October 2002 and June 2013, 49 patients (30 females and 19 males) were randomly selected at the Medical University of Austria. Clinical response was evaluated after 6 weeks of treatment with either broadband or narrowband UVB for patients with chronic pruritus.

Reduction of Pruritus in Patients With Chronic Pruritus 

The average pruritus reduction from BB-UVB was 48%, with a relative treatment effect of 66.7%. NB-UVB reduced pruritus, on average, by 66.4%, with an 80.7% relative treatment effect. The combined treatment effect of NB-UVB and BB-UVB decreased pruritic activity by 57.4%.

Improving Sleep in Chronic Pruritus

BB-UVB decreased sleep disturbances by an average of 62.6%. After receiving NB-UVB treatment, the average amount of sleep disturbance decreased by 69.1%. Regarding reducing sleep disturbances, there was no statistically significant difference between BB-UVB and NB-UVB.

Decrease in Skin Excoriation in Chronic Pruritus

BB-UVB reduced excoriation by an average of 43.5%. There were no statistically significant differences between BB-UVB and NB-UVB. However, NB-UVB did reduce the severity of excoriations (mean reduction: 48.5%), and the therapeutic response to treatment was favorable in both groups.

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This study found that NB-UVB was not inferior to BB-UVB for alleviating pruritus, sleep disturbances, and excoriation of the skin in patients with chronic pruritis, with both modalities providing significant benefits.


Kupsa, R., Gruber-Wackernagel, A., Hofer, A., Quehenberger, F., Wolf, P., & Legat, F. J. (2023). Narrowband-ultraviolet B vs Broadband-ultraviolet B in Treatment of Chronic Pruritus: A Randomized, Single-blinded, Non-inferiority Study. Acta dermato-venereologica, 103, adv9403. https://doi.org/10.2340/actadv.v103.9403