One of the best known climatotherapy sites is the Dead Sea, which offers formalized treatment facilities for psoriasis. At 1,200 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on the earth's surface. This creates a very unique climate that allows people to sunbathe for long periods of time without burning. The Dead Sea water is said to have a therapeutic effect on the skin due to its high salt and mineral content. It has an extraordinarily high salt content of 33 percent. In comparison, the Great Salt Lake in Utah has 22 percent, and the oceans have 3 percent.

The Dead Sea area is hot and sunny with more than 300 cloudless days a year and very low rainfall. The only time the Dead Sea treatment clinics are closed is in the month of January, which is usually cloudy. The average temperature at the Dead Sea is 90 degrees, and the average humidity is 35 percent. Because it is far below sea level, an atmospheric filter is created that eliminates many of the burning rays and much of the heat. In addition, high levels of bromine in the air seem to add to a patient's sense of well-being.

The main elements of Dead Sea climatotherapy are sun exposure and bathing in the sea waters. Psoriasis patients sunbathe in large enclosed solariums; there is a central public solarium and almost all of the hotels have private solariums for their guests. Sun exposure is gradually increased to a total of three to six hours per day, and bathing in the Dead Sea is limited to 30 minutes at a time, twice per day.

Moisturizers, keratolytics (agents that remove the scales) or other mild topical preparationsmay be recommended for some patients. In very resistant cases, more potent medications can be used at the beginning of treatment. Most patients are under the regular supervision of a dermatologist from one of the Dead Sea's medical clinics.

Patients are advised to stay at least four weeks to get the maximum benefit and maximum remission time. Some people experience a substantial improvement in two weeks, but most do not show significant improvement until at least the third week.

According to several published studies, about 80 percent to 90 percent of the people visiting the Dead Sea for psoriasis treatments can expect to clear or significantly improve. Less than 1 percent of people see no change or get worse.

Once the psoriasis is clear, the length of remission varies. A 1999 study published in theInternational Journal of Dermatology looked at 100 patients with psoriasis who traveled for treatment to the Dead Sea. Of the 75 individuals who achieved clearance after four weeks at the Dead Sea, 68 percent were still in remission after four months, 43 percent after six months and 10 percent after eight months. In a 2003 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 27 patients with plaque psoriasis received treatment at the Dead Sea with daily bathing in the water and sunlight exposure. Of those patients, 48 percent achieved complete remission and 41 percent showed a moderate to marked response. The average remission period for the individuals who achieved complete clearance was 3.3 months.

Psoriatic arthritis can be treated with applications of Dead Sea mud to affected joints and regular baths in sulfur pools, combined with sun exposure and bathing in the Dead Sea. Also, the high concentration of minerals in the Dead Sea produces a high water density that allows the human body to float almost effortlessly. Arthritis patients float in the Dead Sea to facilitate movement of swollen painful joints. Many treatment centers also provide physical therapy services.

Dead Sea salts, mud and other products containing the minerals of the Dead Sea are available over the counter through a variety of companies based in Israel and in the United States. These may be helpful for some, particularly in relieving itching and redness. However, studies have shown that the most effective part of the Dead Sea treatment regimen is the unique light exposure, and not the minerals in the Dead Sea water.

Hotels and treatment clinics at the Dead Sea

In Israel there are a variety of psoriasis treatment clinics and numerous hotels in an area called Ein Bokek on the Dead Sea's shores. Ein Bokek is where the vast majority of psoriasis treatment takes place at the Dead Sea. A small treatment center is also open at the north end of the Dead Sea. Accommodations are available at a nearby kibbutz (village).

Because of the geographic location of the Dead Sea, it is important to check travel advisories before booking a trip to the Middle East.