How Does Phototherapy Work?

Phototherapy, or traditionally referred to as “heliotherapy”; is the treatment of certain conditions using light exposure. It is more common to use phototherapy as a treatment option for certain conditions such as depression and psoriasis (a skin condition that causes redness and irritation).

Using special light boxes, a person can administer phototherapy to themselves for a set amount of days and  weeks. This therapy is usually conducted in the morning hours, because the light from these lamps can be too stimulating and interfere with sleep cycles.

Phototherapy is quite beneficial to those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD may be a direct cause of the shorter days and hours of sunlight during the Fall and Winter months. With light boxes that are utilized in phototherapy, the cells in the retina of the eyes are stimulated. These same cells have connections to the hypothalamus, which is a section of the brain that is responsible for the circadian rhythm.

It is believed that a person who is exposed to emulated sunlight for an ample amount of minutes each day may experience a change in mood and outlook. SAD lamps as they are often times referred to typically put out 10,000 lux in light. Lux is a measurement of light. On a normal, sunny day a person can experience the natural benefits of 50,000 lux of light just from the sun.

Normal light bulbs that are used around the house produce an estimated 100 lux of light. Using a phototherapy light indoors for improving a depressive state of mind and emotions is quite a significant step forward. The bulbs used around the house are simply not enough to convince the body that we are in sun light. However, SAD lamps can produce enough harmless light to keep the circadian rhythm on track; prevent the feeling of lethargy and keep a positive mood on track.

What You Should Know About Phototherapy

Although phototherapy with the use of light boxes can be very beneficial to some people, it isn’t always appropriate a solution for everyone. Those who are bipolar or have diabetes should talk with their family doctor first before considering this as an option.

Those who are bipolar may experience mania that is brought on by the stimulation of the light in doors. Diabetes can affect the retina. Even though SAD lamps are generally regarded as not producing damaging light to the eyes, if you have diabetes you should talk with your doctor first before attempting phototherapy.

Phototherapy light boxes are not approved by the FDA. The affects of light treatment and how it actually works to improve something like depression is still a matter of study, but a lot of people feel that light box therapy is beneficial to their state.