What is a Light Therapy?
Introduction: Light therapy or phototherapy is an alternative treatment based on light exposure for various disorders. This procedure, which is also called light box therapy, involves the use of light brighter than regular indoor lighting, but significantly less bright than sunlight.
Light Therapy Treatment: Under the treatment, patients are exposed directly to full-spectrum bright light. The patient either sits down, if a light box is used as the source, or has some degree of mobility if a light visor is used. The duration of the exposure depends on the seriousness of the condition, reduction or elimination of the symptoms and light strength. Depression is one condition that is eliminated through the therapy. The affected individual's biological clock, or the natural course of one's waking and sleeping hours, is gradually normalized following light therapy. The process involves gradually increasing the time exposed to a high-intensity fluorescent lamp from about 30 minutes up to about 2 hours every morning - the time when the therapy is said to be most effective. Seasonal affective disorder is a type of Depression caused by the absence of or limited exposure to sunlight during fall and winter. The use of light therapy has been cited by up to 90% of individuals with SAD as helpful in making them feel better, possibly because the treatment takes the place of sunlight exposure. SAD symptoms could take as long as three weeks before they are relieved through the therapy.
Light Therapy Cure:
- Sleep disturbance
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Mental disorders
- Bipolar disorders
- Atopic dermatitis
- Other skin disorders
Although the scientists concluded that light therapy is an effective treatment for SAD and non-seasonal disorders, they emphasized that the research did not establish the treatment's safety and/or negative side effects because of limited related data. Visit some good educational websites for more knowledge regarding light therapy. http://www.alternative-healthguide.com/light_therapy.htm
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Light therapy or phototherapy is the therapeutic application of light devices to treat illnesses. Light (or lack of it) can affect our moods, body weight, skin and even biochemical processes in the body (e.g the manufacture of vitamin D as well as hormone production). Different spectrums of light are commonly used to treat bilirubin in new born babies, Psoriasis and depression.
Different spectrums of light are used in different therapies.
Full spectrum light is designed to mimic both the visible and ultraviolet (UV) light radiated by the sun. It is, in effect, artificially generated sunlight. It is used to treat moods, to improve mental health, and to improve general health in areas where sunlight is not available, like northern countries during the winter months.
Light therapy or phototherapy consists of exposure to specific wavelengths of light using lasers, LEDs, fluorescent lamps, dichroic lamps or very bright, full-spectrum light, for a prescribed amount of time. It has proven effective in treating Acne vulgaris, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and for some people it has ameliorated delayed sleep phase syndrome. It has recently been shown effective in non-seasonal depression. Proponents claim demonstrable benefits for skin conditions such as psoriasis, as well as more controversially, some degree of "skin rejuvenation".
Visible blue light in the range 440nm has been shown to activate porphyrins in Propionibacterium acnes which damage and ultimately kill the bacteria by creating free radicals. Application of the light for 3 consecutive days has been shown to reduce the bacteria in the pores by 99.9%. Since there are few porphorins naturally found in the skin, the treatment is believed safe; although eye protection is necessary due to light sensitive chemicals in the retina. The light is usually created by fluorescent lamps, bright LEDs or dichroic filament bulbs.
Treatment is often accompanied with application of red light which has been shown to activate ATP in human skin cells, and seems to improve response rates.
Overall improvements of 80% can be found over 3 months; most studies show that it performs better than Benzoyl peroxide but treatment is far better tolerated. However approximately 10% of users see no improvement.
Home use light boxes usually work well, are effective for people with long-term acne; and are likely to be cheaper than dermatologist office light treatments, and can be repeated over several years for negligible cost. As of 2006 even though they are not cheap, the cost is on a par with the total cost of benzoyl peroxide, moisturiser and facial washes over the total life of the light box, and the light boxes may yet get cheaper due to economies of scale.
Application in a dermatologist's office is usually much more costly, and not necessarily any more effective, but the visible blue light is sometimes used with off-label use of aminolevulinic acid; this causes the bacteria to generate more than normal quantities of porphyrins and this greatly improves response. Whilst temporary redness and edema is experienced, this can give over a year of clearance with just a few applications.
See also Photobiomodulation for information regarding tissue regeneration and pain relief with laser and LED light.
There is some skepticism and lack of data over some of the treatments of Acne vulgaris through visible light, particularly the relatively experimental photodynamic treatments. For more information.
Light aids the breakdown of bilirubin in the skin in neonatal jaundice.
Seasonal affective disorder
Full sunlight is preferred for seasonal affective disorder. Other treatments are based upon infrared light exposure. There are a number of products (such as light boxes) using very intense artificial illumination that are effective for Seasonal Affective Disorder. These products must provide 10,000 lux or more directed angularly at the user's eyes, while filtering out any harmful ultraviolet radiation. Modern light boxes do not emit ultraviolet radiation. New research indicates that using only certain wavelengths of light (i.e., the "blue" wavelengths) is at least as efficacious as using 10,000 lux bulbs. Other studies have shown that blue light may play a role in developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).
Only recently have clinical studies been conducted which specifically excluded all patients with any degree of seasonality. Before these studies, there was suspicion that any depressed patients who benefitted from light treatment were really only having the SAD component of their Depression treated. However, light therapy is now an established treatment for depression, regardless of seasonality, and has certain advantages over drugs, in that it might take less time to see a benefit (typically antidepressant drugs take several weeks to reach full effectiveness).
Delayed sleep phase syndrome
When treating delayed sleep phase syndrome, the timing of the exposure is critical. The light must be provided as soon after arising as possible to achieve any effect. Some users have reported success with lights that turn on shortly before waking (dawn simulation).
A feature of Psoriasis is excessively fast turnover of skin layers. Application of UV radiation to the skin damages it and thus slows this, and some improvements are seen in the condition.
See Also: PUVA
Tanning is caused by the effects of two different types of Ultraviolet, UVA and UVB. Detailed information regarding the differences between UVA and UVB wavelengths can be found here http://www.beatpsoriasis.com/documentation.htm
Visible red light activates ATP in skin cells and increase the rate of production of collagen for a few days, giving a lifting effect. No permanent improvement of skin aging has been demonstrated, but completion of the healing of skin damage does seem to proceed faster.
Safety of phototherapy
Ultraviolet light causes progressive damage to human skin. This is mediated by genetic damage, collagen damage, as well as destruction of vitamin A and Vitamin C in the skin and free radical generation.
Visible blue light has been suggested to cause DNA breaks, but carcinogenesis has not been demonstrated, and enzymes within the cells are believed to repair the breaks reasonably well. However cancer has been induced in cells with deliberately damaged repair mechanisms.
Modern phototherapy lamps used in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder do not emit ultraviolet light and are considered safe and effective for the intended purpose, as long as photosensitizing drugs are not being taken at the same time and in the absence of any existing eye conditions. Light therapy is a mood altering treatment, as just as with drug treatments, there is a possibility of triggering a manic state from a depressive state, causing anxiety, and other side effects. While these side-effects are usually controllable, it is recommended that patients undertake light-therapy under the supervision of an experienced clinician, rather than attempting to self-medicate.
- ^ British Journal of dermatology 2000 effectiveness of blue/red light treatments
- ^ Aetna policy bulletin re: Phototherapy for Acne
- ^ Goel N, Terman M, Terman JS, Macchi MM, Stewart JW. Controlled trial of bright light and negative air ions for chronic depression. Psychological Medicine 2005;35
- ^ Wirz-Justice A, Benedetti F, Berger M, Lam RW, Martiny K, Terman M, Wu J. Chronotherapeutics (light and wake therapy) in affective disorders. Psychological Medicine 2005;35
- ^ Science News, April 23, 2005 - Mood Brighteners: Light Therapy Gets Nod as Depression Buster" by Bruce Bower
- ^ Terman M, Terman JS - Light therapy for seasonal and nonseasonal depression: efficacy, protocol, safety, and side effects. CNS Spectr. 2005;10:647-63
- Criteria for Light Box Selection - Advice on choosing a safe, effective lightbox for SAD, depression, circadian rhythm disorders
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