Regular exposure to strong artificial light to treat several medical conditions has been simply termed as light therapy. Also, known as phototherapy, it is generally used to treat derma problem, mental disorders, sleep disorders and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), such as winter depression. Light therapy is known to have various benefits and is an effective treatment. However, despite its usefulness, it carries certain risks of side effects.
Types of Light Therapy
In light therapy, a box-like device emits artificial light that mimics natural light.
- Skin conditions are treated using Intense Pulsed Light Therapy, which emits high-intensity, visible light.
- Another type of light therapy involves the use of artificial ultraviolet B light, known as Ultraviolet-B or UVB Light Therapy.
- Fluorescent light therapy, which emits bright light from specific wavelengths, involves the use of blue fluorescent or bili lamps.
Fields of Application
- The Light therapy treatment has been developed to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD develops during the dark winter days and presents symptoms, such as fatigue, tiredness, difficulty in waking up in the morning, increased craving for sugary foods. This leads to weight gain and frequent depression. Various clinical researches have been conducted to measure the effectiveness of light therapy as a remedy for SAD. Winter Doldrums, which is a sub-clinical and benign form of SAD, is also treated with light therapy.
- Neonatal jaundice can be treated with fluorescent light therapy. In this disease, the infant has an immature liver, due to which bilirubin is not disposed from his body. Light therapy converts bilirubin into a substance that the infant can easily excreted through urine and stools.
- Aging signs, such as skin discolouration, acne, wrinkles and dark circles are treated with Intense Pulsed Light Therapy.
Side Effects of Light Therapy
- Light therapy, in some patients, leads to development of manic state from a depressive state presenting symptoms, such as anxiety, deranged enthusiasm, restlessness, headaches and other side effects, although this state is fully controllable and treatable.
- Skin treatment with light therapy may cause reddened skin, pain during treatment, burns, skin discoloration, bruising, headache and hair loss.
- Prolonged use of UVB light therapy can result in premature skin aging and increases the chances of skin cancer.
- Patients suffering from porphyria must avoid most forms of light therapy.
- Patients taking certain drugs, such as methotrexate or chloroquine should not opt for light therapy as these drugs can cause porphyria.
- Doctors advise that on the day of UVB light therapy, patients should avoid sun exposure as dual exposure to these lights, i.e. UVB lights coming from the sun, can cause sunburn.
Side effects of light therapy are usually controllable; however, it is recommended that patients undertake light-therapy under the supervision of an experienced clinician.
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