What is Light Therapy For?

Light therapy involves placing one’s self within the proximity of what is called a light therapy box which is a device that can emit or give out a form of light that is similar to natural lighting of the outdoors. It is also called by many different names such as photo therapy and bright light therapy.

woman doing blue light therapy

With today’s hectic lifestyle and busy work schedule, people are finding ways to improve their overall health and wellness by taking supplements such as different food items and therapies that can help people and individuals achieve their health goals. Certain diseases also need to be addressed by therapies that are not normally used in a regular medical setting. An example of this therapy is called light therapy. In this article, we will look at what light therapy is for and how it can have health benefits for those people who will use it.

What is Light Therapy?

Light therapy also known as phototherapy involves placing one’s self within the proximity of what is called a light therapy box which is a device that can emit or give out a form of light that is similar to the natural lighting of the outdoors.

What is it used for?

It is especially useful for people being treated for a certain type of psychological issue which is called a seasonal affective disorder or SAD. SAD is a unique type of mental state where patients can get depressed during a certain season of the year such as the winter or the fall. With light therapy, it is believed to positively affect certain portions or chemicals in the depressed individual’s brain affecting the quality of the patient’s sleep and mood. This means that it can also be used to address other medical and psychological conditions such as sleep disorders and other types of depression.

The patient’s doctor may recommend light therapy to lower antidepressant medication dosages, to prevent or limit the use of antidepressant drugs for pregnant mothers or for those mothers who are breastfeeding, to enhance the overall effect and impact of counseling or psychotherapy, to promote a more non-invasive treatment.

Light therapy is usually recommended by doctors to address various conditions such as dementia, easing patients who are adjusting to a rotating or night shift schedule, sleep disorder, jet lag, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and other general forms of depression.

Light Therapy used for the treatment of SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is different from the lightbox device used to treat psoriasis. The lightbox device used to treat various skin conditions such as psoriasis usually emits UltraViolet light or UV light rays that can damage the patient’s eyes and skin if not administered properly.

What are the Risks?

While phototherapy is considered to be generally safe for the use of patients and has minimal side effects, there are still some things to consider in terms of risks in the use of the said therapy. These risks include agitation caused by bipolar disorders, euphoria, mania, hyperactivity, irritability, and general agitation, nausea, headache, and eyestrain. These side effects usually resolve on their own after a few days of treatment or being exposed to light therapy. Side effects can also be managed or lessened by decreasing the length of time of being exposed to the lightbox device during light therapy or by moving farther away from the device during light therapy sessions. Patients may also take short breaks during extended periods of treatment or they may undergo therapy sessions during different times of the day to ease the abovementioned effects of light therapy.

When Should Caution Be ObservedWhen Using This Therapy?

All medical procedures are recommended to be undertaken or conducted under the general supervision of a health care partner or professional or physician and light therapy is no different. Light therapy should only be conducted while under the supervision of the patient’s doctor but the observations of a doctor become more important for certain conditions that may be adversely affected by the said procedure. Patients with the following conditions should consider talking to their doctors first before doing or undergoing light therapy:

  1. Eyes may be adversely affected by being exposed to different forms of light especially those whose eyes get easily damaged.
  2. If the patient is currently taking other forms of medications that may increase their vulnerability to light damage such as herbal supplements (St. John’s Wort), anti-inflammatories and antibiotics.
  3. Patients with skin conditions that make them more prone to sunlight damage like systemic lupus erythematosus

Healthcare professionals and patients should also be careful when it comes to the type of light being emitted by lightbox devices. The said devices should ideally be able to filter out Ultra Violet Light. UV light has been shown to adversely affect and damage the eyes and the skin and finding a therapy box that emits a small number of limited levels of UV light is more preferable or appropriate for use in light therapy sessions.

Be wary when using tanning beds as an alternative since there is little to no study indicating that tanning beds are as effective as light device boxes in addressing the SAD or seasonal affective disorder. Patients with bipolar disorder must also be careful when using light device boxes as the said therapy and device may cause mania and adversely affect the moods and emotions of people suffering from the aforementioned psychological and mental condition.

How To Ensure Its Effectiveness?

For it to be effective, three (3) main or major factors must be considered during treatment.

  1. Intensity: This means that it needs to achieve a certain level of light lux measurements.
  2. Duration: Regular lightbox will usually require a duration of around 20 to 30 minutes to effectively address SAD.
  3. Timing is another factor for effectiveness as it has been observed that light therapy is most effective in the morning.

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