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Woods Lamp For Skin Examination

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A Wood's light is a hand-held fluorescent lamp emitting "long wave" ultraviolet A. In dark conditions, certain infections fluoresce on exposure to the light.

  • Fungal infection of the hair and scalp due to the cat ringworm Microsporum canis fluoresces green.
  • Pityriasis versicolor, which mainly affects the trunk, is due to certain species of malassezia. It fluoresces yellow-green when the infection is active, providing the patient has not washed prior to examination (the responsible chemical is water soluble).
  • Bacterial infection in skin flexures due to erythrasma Corynebacterium minutissimum fluoresces coral-pink.

As colour contrast increases on exposure to a Wood's light, the extent of pigmentary disorders can be determined.

  • Vitiligo (white patches anywhere)
  • Pityriasis versicolor (pale patches mainly on the trunk)
  • Melasma (brown patches on the face)

Characteristic urinary fluorescence is also helpful in the diagnosis of hepatic porphyrias (porphyria cutanea tarda).

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