"My Spotted Past" by Bruce Elliott

The story behind the invention of SolRx UVB-NB Phototherapy devices  

on roof

Like most ideas, there was a need…

In the 1960’s, what can an eight year old boy do if he has 20% involved full body psoriasis and lives in Northern Ontario Canada? (at approx. 47° north latitude, which is about the same sun-depraved latitude as Seattle and Paris, France) Like many people; the family physician was about the only option.

Topical steroids took away some of the itch, but, cosmetically, there were still those coin-size red spots everywhere. My mother even bought me a couple different “health” lamps for me to try; one was UVA and woefully underpowered, and one was infared and useless for psoriasis.

Nobody knew anything about UVB, including my doctor. My nickname was “Spot” for a while. Well, I guess it builds character… Aside: Our family has quite a history of psoriasis. My father’s side spent three generations as fishermen in the psoriasis hot-spot of Newfoundland, and on my mother’s side, my uncle (and coincidentally also my namesake) had severe psoriasis triggered by his tour of duty as a RCAF Lancaster Bombardier in WWII. Most of us know that stress plays a major role in this disease.

The only thing that seemed to have any real therapeutic value was natural sunlight. My mother was a nurse and she always encouraged me to get out in the sun. I remember the first days in the spring when it was warm enough to sunbathe outside. I would climb onto the roof of our house to get the first weak sun rays of the season. This picture shows me and my future wife on the roof, early in the spring, with no leaves yet on the trees, sometime around 1981. God bless all our partners for silently seeing past the surface.

And it worked! Summers were pretty good for my skin, but with the return of winter, my psoriasis also returned. Well, I guess it builds character…

1977 Bruce
Solarc Outside

When I went to the University of Waterloo to study mechanical engineering in the early 80’s, they actually had a UVB light machine that the doctor said could clear my psoriasis. Considering my experience with natural sunlight, it was not difficult to convince me to give it a try.

And it worked! Wow… I could get relief all year round! This was great, and for several years I took 2 to 3 trips to the clinic per week. The routine was to apply a mixture of warm water and tar at home in the morning, attend classes (no doubt stinking like a gas station) and go for the light treatment in the afternoon. It took years to get my skin under control, no doubt worsened by the stress of academic demands.

After graduating from university, I took a job in a community that did not have a phototherapy clinic. So I built my own home unit. (This engineering degree has to be good for some things!)


And it worked! Now, not only did I have my psoriasis under control, I saved time by not having to trek to the clinic all the time. I could take my treatments right at home and on my schedule. This was fantastic!!!

It was not long before I met someone with equally severe psoriasis and was commissioned to build a unit for him.

With that was borne the idea to manufacture medical UVB home phototherapy equipment in Canada. Our first product was the Solarc/SolRx 1000-Series Full Body Panel. It was designed in 1992 based on the experience gained with the early prototypes. We now have a very highly developed product line that we can offer to psoriasis, vitiligo, and eczema sufferers everywhere; so they can experience the freedom that these devices can provide.

A particular source of pride through all this is our SolRx User’s Manuals. They have been relentlessly developed since the days of the first devices, using information gathered from many sources, dermatologist and clinic reviews, and my own personal experience. We feel that our User’s Manuals have been absolutely critical to SolRx Home UVB phototherapy patient success. We are grateful for the validation of our efforts, documented in the 2006 medical study of 25 of our home UVB-Narrowband devices in the Ottawa area, entitled: Are Narrow-band Ultraviolet B Home Units a Viable Option for Continuous or Maintenance Therapy of Photoresponsive Skin Diseases? published in the Journal of Cutaneous Medicine & Surgery, Volume 10, Issue 5; an official publication of the Canadian Dermatology Association.

Solarc Systems was incorporated in 1992 and to date, we have supplied many thousands of UVB phototherapy devices, mostly in Canada & the USA, but also in increasing numbers all over the world.

In 2003, we introduced the versatile 500-Series “Hand/Foot & Spot” models, which were the first North American devices to use Philips powerful new PL-L36W/01 compact fluorescent bulbs, almost a full decade before any of our competition.

In 2006, we introduced the 100-Series Handheld device, which was the first device to use TWO (2) small Philips PL-S9W/01 compact fluorescent bulbs AND with its non-plastic wand is still the only handheld device that can be placed directly on the patient’s skin.

And in 2011, in an effort to make full body Narrowband-UVB devices more affordable, we introduced the world’s first modular twin-bulb device, the E-Series Expandable & Multidirectional System, which for a single Master device is by far the lowest-cost 6-foot full-body device in the world, while at the same time being expandable right up to a very powerful full surround booth.

Our philosophy is to build devices to the highest quality standards so that they will provide many years of trouble-free service. The last thing we want is a product issue at a remote location, and, because skin diseases are hereditary, we feel that it is entirely possible that these devices could survive to help future generations. As a designer, I have an aversion to plastic parts that age and break (especially when subject to the effects of ultraviolet light), and proprietary parts that force customers to be captive. I like steel and electrical parts that have wide availability. I like quality and I like durability.

Solarc also supplies replacement UVB-Narrowband, UVB-Broadband, UVA, and UVA-1 ultraviolet bulbs to most of the phototherapy clinics in Canada, and many in the USA and abroad. These are, of course, the same bulbs that are used in our home phototherapy devices. We are an authorized distributor for Philips medical ultraviolet bulbs , including of course their “Narrowband UVB” (/01) models such as the TL100W/01-FS72 and PL-L36W/01. UVB-Narrowband is now more than 95% of our sales!

In 2002, we were the first North American UV phototherapy manufacturer to become ISO-13485 certified.

In 2005, after many years of effort, we got UV home phototherapy devices added to the list of allowable Medical Expense Tax Credits in the Canadian federal budget, which cites our exact phrasing: “phototherapy equipment for psoriasis and other skin disorders”.

So if you would like to explore the benefits of home UVB phototherapy further, please surf our website, or give us a call or email. Most dermatologists are familiar with our products. 

And, if you were wondering, I still use a Solarc 1000-Series Narrowband UVB device to control my full-body psoriasis. In the winter, I usually take one to two minutes per side (front-side and back-side), 3 to 5 times per week. In the summer, I can sometimes go months without treatment, depending on how much natural sun I get. I monitor the condition of my skin, and if my psoriasis flares, I simply increase my treatment time and/or frequency to knock it back down. My doses are typically much lower than the dose required to burn my Type II skin, but sometimes I do get very mildly pink. My skin condition is easily controlled using this maintenance strategy. I have been using home UVB phototherapy like this for over 25 years and I get regular skin checks. I also suffer from acute psoriasis on the tops of my feet, which I think is a result of frequent tight sport-shoe use (skiing and cycling). To specifically target the tops of my feet (which don’t get much exposure from my full body device), I use either a Solarc handheld device or a Solarc 500-Series under my desk pointing downward, which works really well.

aboutus beforeafter

Here’s a picture of me many years ago, with a particularly nasty flare-up due to a developed allergic reaction to topical tar…and now. I have experienced many skin-related problems including psoriasis, scalp psoriasis, pityriasis rosea (now that was awful) and even poison ivy (also very nasty). UVB home phototherapy has been personally indispensable to me for over 20 years. Now, if I am asked if I have any health problems, I honestly don’t even think about my psoriasis.

Sincerely, Bruce Elliott, BaSc Mechanical Engineering, P.Eng
President, Founder, and Lifelong Psoriasis Sufferer
Solarc Systems Inc., Canada


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