Phototherapy, often known as light therapy, is a unique medical treatment that utilizes the power of light. It’s a method that uses light’s effectual and rejuvenating properties.
In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of phototherapy, covering everything from what it is and the ailments it treats to who can benefit from it, as well as potential hazards.
So, let’s dive in.
What is Phototherapy?
Phototherapy, often referred to as photo light therapy, is a medical treatment that involves exposing the skin or other body tissues to specific wavelengths of light. This therapeutic approach utilizes different types of light sources, such as ultraviolet (UV) light, to address various medical conditions.
The goal of phototherapy is to harness the healing properties of light to improve health and well-being.
What conditions does phototherapy treat?
Phototherapy is a versatile treatment used to address a range of medical conditions, including:
- Skin Conditions: Phototherapy is particularly effective in treating various types of skin diseases such as psoriasis, eczema (atopic dermatitis), vitiligo, and various forms of dermatitis. UV light exposure can help reduce inflammation, itchiness, and the abnormal skin cell growth associated with these conditions.
- Jaundice in Newborns: Newborns with jaundice, a condition caused by excessive bilirubin levels in the blood, undergo phototherapy to help break down and eliminate bilirubin from their bodies. This is often done using special blue light lamps.
- Mood Disorders: Light therapy is also employed to treat mood disorders like seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and non-seasonal depression. Exposure to specific wavelengths of light can help regulate circadian rhythms and improve mood.
- Cancer Treatment: In some cases, phototherapy is used as a part of cancer treatment. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) skin treatment involves the use of a photosensitizing agent and a specific wavelength of light to target and destroy cancer cells.
Who can get phototherapy?
Phototherapy is a versatile treatment suitable for various individuals, but its suitability depends on the specific conditions being treated. The following are examples of who can benefit from phototherapy:
- Newborns: Neonatal phototherapy is a common treatment for newborns with jaundice, and it is typically administered in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or under a pediatrician’s supervision.
- Individuals with Skin Conditions: Patients with skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema, or vitiligo can often benefit from phototherapy under the guidance of a dermatologist.
- Cancer Patients: Photodynamic therapy is used in cancer treatment, primarily for certain skin and surface cancers. Oncologists can recommend this therapy when appropriate.
- People with Mental Disorders: Those experiencing mood disorders, such as SAD or depression, can find relief through light therapy. Your doctor can help determine the appropriate treatment plan depending on your medical history.
Types of Phototherapy
Some of the most common types of phototherapy include:
- UVB Phototherapy: Ultraviolet B (UVB) phototherapy exposes the skin to UVB light to treat conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and vitiligo. UVB is available in narrowband and broadband forms.
- PUVA Therapy: Psoralen plus ultraviolet A (PUVA) therapy combines the use of psoralen, a photosensitizing medication, with UVA light exposure. It is used for conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
- Blue Light Therapy: Blue light therapy is used to treat skin conditions and is particularly effective for acne. It works by targeting and destroying acne-causing bacteria.
- Neonatal Phototherapy: This type of phototherapy is used to treat jaundice in newborns. Special blue or white lights are used to help break down bilirubin in the baby’s blood.
- Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT): Low-level laser therapy, also known as LLLT, employs low-level lasers or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to stimulate tissue repair and reduce inflammation. While it is not as commonly used as other forms of phototherapy, it has shown promise in various medical applications, including wound healing and pain management.
- Light Boxes for Mood Disorders: Lightboxes emit a bright, white light that mimics natural sunlight. They are used to alleviate mood disorders like SAD and non-seasonal depression.
- Photodynamic Therapy (PDT): PDT involves a photosensitizing agent and a specific wavelength of light to target and destroy cancer cells in certain skin and surface cancers.
What to Expect with Phototherapy?
If you or anyone in your family is scheduled for phototherapy, it’s essential to know what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.
During the Procedure:
- You or your child will be positioned in front of the appropriate light source based on the type of phototherapy being administered.
- Protective eyewear will be provided to shield the eyes from UV or bright light exposure.
- The duration of each session will vary depending on the condition being treated, but it typically ranges from a few minutes to 30 minutes.
- Multiple sessions in some cases will be required over several weeks to achieve optimal results.
After the Procedure:
- After each session, you will be advised to apply moisturizers or ointments to the treated skin to minimize dryness and irritation.
- For newborns undergoing jaundice phototherapy, monitoring of bilirubin levels will continue to ensure they are within the normal range.
- It’s essential to follow your Doctor’s instructions regarding the frequency and duration of phototherapy sessions.
Risks & Complications of Phototherapy Light Therapy
While phototherapy is generally considered safe and effective, it’s essential to be aware of potential risks and complications associated with this treatment:
- Skin Irritation: Phototherapy can sometimes cause temporary skin irritation, redness, or dryness. These side effects are typically mild and manageable with moisturizers or ointments.
- Eye Damage: Prolonged exposure to UV or bright light without proper eye protection can potentially harm the eyes. Protective eyewear is essential during phototherapy sessions to prevent eye damage.
- Risk of Sunburn: After UVB phototherapy sessions, the treated skin can be more sensitive to sunlight, increasing the risk of sunburn. It’s crucial to protect treated areas from excessive sun exposure.
- Long-Term Risks: With prolonged or excessive phototherapy, there may be a slightly increased risk of skin aging and a small risk of skin cancer. These risks are generally considered minimal, but it’s essential to discuss them with your doctor.
The importance of skin health cannot be overstated. Our skin serves as the first line of defense against the outside world, and its condition often reflects our overall well-being. As we age, our skin encounters its fair share of challenges, making it imperative that we understand the diverse treatment options available such as Photo Light Therapy. Getting in touch with an expert dermatologist can be a game changer for your skin.
To connect with a dermatologist near you you can also go on Skin and Hair Academy’s Find a Dermatologist page.
FAQs on Photo Light Therapy
1) What is phototherapy treatment used for?
Phototherapy is used to treat various medical conditions, including skin disorders like psoriasis and eczema, mood disorders like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and non-seasonal depression, and neonatal jaundice in newborns.
2) How many hours does phototherapy take?
The duration of phototherapy sessions varies depending on the type of treatment and the condition being addressed.
3) What is phototherapy for newborns?
Phototherapy for newborns is a treatment used to manage jaundice, a condition characterized by elevated bilirubin levels in the baby’s blood. Special blue or white lights are used to help break down bilirubin in the baby’s blood.
4) What are the types of light therapy?
Light therapy includes various forms such as UVB phototherapy, PUVA therapy, blue light therapy, neonatal phototherapy, and low-level laser therapy. Each type is tailored to specific medical conditions.
5) What are the side effects of photo-light therapy?
Potential side effects of phototherapy can include temporary skin irritation, redness, dryness, and, in some cases, an increased sensitivity to sunlight after UVB sessions.