Since its first recognition in the early 80s, Light Therapy or Phototherapy has gained ground in the field of modern clinical science. It has been found to provide alternative treatment to skin-related problems, neonatal jaundice, Parkinson’s disease, and mood and sleep related issues. This painless treatment has been widely accepted by patients around the world, as scientists are still reinforcing what data they have to cover as many areas of treatment as possible.
Scientists found that winter depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is directly attributable to errors in the body’s inner clock or the natural circadian rhythm. This affects our ability to sleep and pattern our sleep schedule, body temperature and hormone production. It was only after 2001 when scientists from Apollo Health and Thomas Jefferson University fully discovered the medicinal effects of human exposure to bright lights. They found that patients who were exposed to specialized bright lights were affected positively due to the production of brain chemicals, relieving them of depression.
The process of treatment under light therapy basically involves exposing the patient under the effects of a light device on a regular basis as prescribed by the doctor or the therapist. This process is usually recommended during daytime for added sunlight benefits. Therapy sessions normally do not last more than 2 hours, depending on the intensity of the light.
Although scientists involved in this field of therapy are still looking for other beneficial effects of light, there have been successful and proven treatment alternatives discovered for certain diseases and health problems such as:
- Acne Vulgaris. It has been found that regular sessions of deep penetrating light therapy help reduce bacteria on skin by 99.9%, and it has been guaranteed safe.
- Psoriasis and Eczema. PUVA treatments have become very popular among cases of psoriasis or eczema. PUVA or Psoralen + Ultraviolet A, with light wavelengths of 400nm to 320 nmn has been known to suppress inflammatory responses associated with psoriarsis and eczema.
Light therapy also helps in mood or sleep related problems. Therapists are using Light Boxes, which are lamps that help control the body’s production of melatonin by an intense yet safe light amplification. The hormone melatonin is essential for the human body clock.
Although the United States Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve light boxes in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder, mainly due to speculation that patients’ responses to light therapy may be seasonally dependent, this therapy still remains the only viable treatment for SAD.
- For neonatal care, especially with cases of neonatal jaundice, light therapy has been very effective. Phototherapy serves as the triggering factor for isomerate bilirubin on babies, helping them excrete certain harmful compounds through urine or stool.
- For Parkinson’s disease, scientists believe that regular exposure to white light help patients minimize tremor occurrences.
Phototherapy research and development continues to thrive as researchers and scientists find more and more solutions. With this rate of improvement, light therapy shall earn full medicinal acceptance just as Laser Therapy has done, more scientifically known as LLLT (Low-Level laser Therapy).
A typical misconception is that Light Therapy and Laser Therapy are the same, but in fact they are not. Yet both are utilizing one resource – light. It is only a matter of time when scientists would be able to refine the science of Light Therapy to land on equal footing with other established clinical treatments if not surpass them.