Light Therapy

Light therapy or phototherapy is not a recent remedial practice, but dates back to over 3,000 years. It has been practiced in India in ancient times when people used sunlight for remedial purpose. Details of light therapy are documented in the ancient sacred texts of Hinduism. In present times, the benefits of light therapy have been well-established. This remedial practice involves using visible light as well as non-visible light sources such as ultraviolet (UV) light. These days, light therapy is used for treating innumerable health conditions.

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There are several conventional light sources such as fluorescent lamps, incandescent lamps and electric arcs. Light therapy is often done with light therapy boxes that radiate a complete spectrum whose composition is similar to that of sunlight. Before undertaking light therapy, it is important to identify the circadian rhythm of an individual and then select the right timing for administration of this remedial procedure.

Light therapy, often referred to as phototherapy, is basically an approach that utilizes natural or even artificial light for treating a variety of health conditions. It has been established that light therapy is effective in alleviating symptoms related to emotional as well as physical disorder. Both traditional as well as alternative medical practitioners have been employing various types of light therapy either independently or even alongside other treatment forms to cure a variety of ailments.

Since long, the medical community is aware of the multiple benefits light offers to the human body as well as the mind. Aside from providing the essential nutrients that are needed for a healthy body, the impact of natural light is very positive on that the brain as well as an individual's emotional state. Light therapy offers an excellent combination of benefits both to the body as well as the mind. As a result, it is effective in helping alleviating the distress caused by various diseases that may vary from skin rashes to anxiety and depression.

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While light therapy is used for treating a variety of health conditions, one of its frequent applications is to ease the symptoms related to seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. It is an emotional condition that may sometimes affect people during tedious winter months. In such conditions, using a light therapy lamp may help the brain to resume producing neurotransmitters that are effective in easing sadness and apathy that are the basic symptoms of this condition. One may also employ light boxes to cure this condition and facilitate manufacture of serotonin and melatonin naturally.

It is interesting to note that in recent times, light therapy or phototherapy has turned out to be a very effective treatment for various types of depression. In fact, both vitamin A and vitamin C are effective in keeping the body balanced and facilitating neurotransmitter production. Neurotransmitters have an impact on the mood of a person. This is the main reason why an individual enduring depression may get some respite by ensuring that he/she regularly spends some time in direct sunlight. Apart from spending time in direct sunlight, one may also use light therapy lamps to get relief from the symptoms as well as phobias that usually come with depression. Often depression may also be accompanied with agoraphobia and panic attacks.

Phototherapy using sunlight can also aid in promoting the body's immune system and enable it to function optimally. In turn, this has the ability to enable the body to combat viruses and also alleviate pain as well as suffering that can be caused by different skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. Moreover, people suffering from insomnia may also find light therapy to be useful as when a person is exposed to natural light it helps to support production of certain chemicals that are useful in normalizing the body's sleep cycle.

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It is worth mentioning here that specific types of light therapy can even offer benefits to diabetics. It has been found that usually people with diabetes have very poor levels of nitric oxide in their bloodstream. Employing light therapy can, therefore, help in facilitating nitric oxide production in the bloodstream and thereby replenish the amount of this chemical that has been depleted from the system.

People are free to decide how much exposure they would like to natural light. Although it is an excellent idea to increase one's exposure to natural light, one should also be cautious on this aspect. Ideally, they should refer a physician to learn how much exposure to natural light is perfect for them and also try to know how to use natural light to get the utmost health benefit from it. Being cautious and consulting a physician will enable them to diminish the risks of overexposure to light, especially harmful lights like ultra-violet (UV) rays. This way, they will be able to avoid other health problems that may again need medical treatment.

How it works

Generally, a box comprising several bright lights that imitate natural light available outdoors is used while administering light therapy. For the right effect, the light needs to have an intensity of no less that 2,500 lux - which is roughly the same intensity of light available outdoors on a slightly cloudy day.

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You can place this box of fluorescent lights close to a person sitting or working, for instance you can place it just beside a TV set or a computer. The box should be positioned such that the light aims at the individual's eyes. However, one must be careful not to stare at the box directly as doing so may cause damage to the eyes. An excellent light box for photo therapy is one from which light radiates into the eyes from above, thereby providing a wide field of luminosity that enables supple activities.

Typically, light therapy or phototherapy gives the best result when it is administered in the morning mimicking the natural cycle of the sun. The duration of a light therapy session may vary greatly - from just 15 minutes and two hours - usually depending on the intensity of light used. Usually, people start off with shorter sessions with lesser intensity of light and gradually undergo longer sessions. It is advisable that you consult your physician before undergoing light therapy so that you start off with the light intensity that is right for you. This is all the more important if your skin or eyes are very susceptible to light.

Uses

Light therapy is used to treat a number of health conditions, both in minors as well as adults. For instance, physicians employ light therapy for lowering the bilirubin level in newborns suffering from jaundice. Normally, physicians use an incubator or some sort of enclosed plastic crib for this purpose, others also employ a biliblanket - a transportable light vest, which the baby can wear for the treatment.

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In order to alleviate pain, light therapy can also be used in the form of a non-invasive healing. In this case, it can be administered from a home device or also in proper medical facility. Among other things, light therapy can be used to cure ailments such as back and neck pain, sports injuries and also treat arthritis. When this treatment is administered, light makes way deep into the tissues, thereby promoting blood circulation, providing ease from muscle spasms and also reducing inflammation.

Moreover, you can also benefit from light therapy if you are suffering from seasonal effective disorder (also known as SAD), which especially affects some people during the fall and winter months. As people are hunkered down with reduced sunlight because of shorter daylight, SAD can often result in sluggishness and depression that gets in the way of one's every day activities. It is believed that a light therapy box that imitates the natural light outdoors can alleviate the symptoms associated with SAD, as it stimulates the brain chemicals that are related to one's sleep and mood.

Physicians also recommend light therapy in the form of aesthetics to make blemished skin smooth, revitalize the skin, and put off acne and wrinkles. Light therapy is also known as photodynamic therapy (PDT) or light-emitting diode therapy (LED) and administering this form of treatment is free from any fuss. However, it is relatively expensive when compared to the other skin-care treatments.

This therapy is based on the scientific findings that light traveling in certain wavelengths can be beneficial for humans and help to cure a variety of ailments. A case in point is that ultra violet (UV) rays are effective in destroying bacteria. Light therapy or phototherapy makes use of the beneficial properties of light thereby creating regimens which may help in easing or curing pains caused by particular ailments. Generally, light therapy is used to relieve depression caused by damp or cold weather conditions.

When dermatologists remove acne, it can be a very painful process. Hence, one may consider using other forms of treatment before they undergo invasive remedial methods. In such cases, administering light therapy is an excellent and effective replacement for any invasive remedial process that involves piercing equipment like syringes. The advancements made in the field of light therapy have made it possible to eliminate harmful bacteria that are responsible for acne by allowing light to pierce the acne cells and destroy the bacteria. This also makes it possible to put off further outbreaks of acne.

Compared to other alternative modes of treatment, light therapy is more effective in curing skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. It works quicker and is also a better replacement for alternative therapies. If you use shampoos or ointments to treat these conditions, it may take several months or even years to cure them completely. Though light therapy is a relatively expensive treatment method, it is eventually economic as it helps you to avoid using expensive skin care products for a prolonged period of time. Moreover, people who use light therapy assert that light helps to revitalize their skin and make it smooth. Following light therapy, the skin not only glows but also has a youthful appearance.

Side effects and cautions

Generally, light therapy or phototherapy is safe. Nevertheless, one needs to exercise sufficient caution while employing this therapy and, ideally, consult a physician before undertaking this treatment.

Light therapy may have a number of side effects, such as eye strain, headaches, insomnia, sleep disturbance and irritability. However, these side effects are mild and in most cases disappear within a few days of starting light therapy.

It is worth mentioning here that photosensitizing medicines often causes the skin to be sensitive to light and may even result in skin reactions. Usually, medications that can cause the skin to become sensitive include melatonin, lithium, specific types of antibiotics and even some medicines that treat acne.

Some people, such as those having a history of lupus erythematosus and skin cancer, should essentially avoid using any type of light therapy. Similarly, people enduring diseases that affect the eye's retina, should also stay away from light therapy.

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