Light therapy
Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is the use of a specialized machine to emit only a specific wavelength of the light spectrum. Light ...

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Technique

Patients may need to wear special protective clothing to prevent sensitive areas, such as the eyes and genitals, from being painfully burned in the course of light therapy.

Medical insurance reimburses the use of light therapy for neonatal jaundice, and some insurance plans will cover light therapy for SAD or psoriasis.

Acne: The exposure to a phototherapy device varies, and no professional associations have established a protocol for its use. The individual typically spends at least 30 minutes in front of a light therapy machine every day.

Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS): For this condition, the patient turns on the light upon waking for 30 to 90 minutes. If the patient is attempting to establish a 24-hour sleep/wake cycle, they might turn on the light at the time they are supposed to awake in the morning.

Neonatal jaundice: A special blue light, also called a "bili blanket," is installed in the newborn's crib within a week of birth. The child wears only a diaper in order to maximize skin exposure, and the perimeter of the crib is lined with protective material. The blue light stays over the child's crib until their skin returns to a normal color. Phototherapy is the frontline treatment for the most popular of newborn conditions.

Psoriasis: For scalp psoriasis, patients may be prescribed a handheld light therapy box for use at home. The patient steps into a fully lighted box, which is about the size of a telephone booth. Usually, however, the patient makes three to five visits per week to the doctor's office. The duration of treatment may last from several weeks to several months. Once the desired effects are achieved, the patient must make follow up appointments every month. Some patients may need to take a medication to sensitize their body to the light, or use a higher intensity of light for the treatment to be effective. One phototherapy machine to treat psoriasis is approved by the FDA

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): The patient purchases a specialized lamp or light box. Starting in the fall, the patient sits in front of the light box for at least 30 minutes per day. Phototherapy is one of the primary treatment options for non-suicidal individuals with SAD.

Theory/evidence

Light therapy is said to have developed because simply exposing the skin to normal sunlight did not provide enough of the desired results. Sunlight contains many different types of light. Each of these types puts out a particular wavelength, and occupies a specific spectrum of light. Light therapy machines concentrate the wavelength that is thought to be beneficial to a person with a particular diagnosis.

There are clear advantages in using technically synthesized sunrays, for example, the parameters of intensity and the emitted light spectrum are controllable, and therefore reproducible.

Acne: Advocates claim that phototherapy decreases populations of bacteria and enzymes, which are usually overabundant during the formation of acne. However, evidence is lacking in this area.

Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS): The way that light therapy might assist a patient in establishing and maintaining a normal sleep/wake cycle is unknown. However, it is theorized that the bright light provides an extra biological cue that aids the body in awakening.

Neonatal jaundice: In newborns with jaundice, research has shown the efficacy of light therapy to assist the liver in lowering the levels of bilirubin in the blood.

Psoriasis: The affected area of skin is exposed to UV light in order to activate a part of the body's immune system. The light kills T cells. The decrease of T cells in the body slows the process of inflammation and causes the loss of skin cells to slow down.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): It is hypothesized that the length of exposure to sunlight affects the brain's production of serotonin, a chemical that influences mood. However, light therapy's exact mechanism in the treatment of depression is unknown.

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