Light therapy for depression and skin diseases

Various diseases can be treated with the help of light therapy. The light shower is used, for example, in the treatment of  depression  . In addition,  skin diseases  such as acne,  neurodermatitis  or  psoriasis  can be alleviated by light. While white light is used for depression, UV rays are used for skin diseases. Read here how light therapy works and what risks and side effects are associated with the treatment.

Light therapy helps with depression

Light therapy is primarily used to treat seasonal depression (winter depression). Ideally, exposure to light occurs immediately in the morning after getting up. This slows down the production of the sleep hormone  melatonin  , which is only produced in the dark. The hormone, which plays a key role in regulating our sleep-wake cycle, is said to have a depression-triggering effect.

The effectiveness of light therapy has been well documented for mild to moderate  winter depression  . According to statistics, the symptoms improve in six to nine out of ten patients. The treatment may not only help with seasonal affective depression, but is also effective in other forms of depression. Here it is usually used as a supplement to treatment methods such as taking  antidepressants  .

This is how the treatment works

In light therapy, patients are   exposed to white light, i.e. bright artificial light. This process is also known as a  light shower  . White light is used during the treatment, the spectrum of which corresponds to that of sunlight. Ideally, the therapy takes place daily for at least 20 to 30 minutes. You sit about a meter away from the light source.

During the treatment you do not have to look directly into the light source. What is important, however, is that the light falls on the retina. You can therefore read the newspaper or have breakfast during the irradiation. It is quite sufficient if you look in the direction of the light therapy lamp from time to time.

High illuminance is important

How long the irradiation should last per day depends on the strength of the light source. In any case, a very bright light source must be used. Normal light bulbs, which produce around 300 to 500 lux, are not sufficient. Ideally, you should use a  light source with 10,000 lux.  Here, half an hour of irradiation is sufficient to achieve a verifiable effect./p>

As part of the treatment, a light therapy device and thus artificial light is used. But natural sunlight is also suitable for therapy. Studies indicate that more and more people are spending too little time outdoors. So go outside regularly and soak up the sun and light. When the sky is clear, there are also 10,000 lux outside shortly after sunrise.

Alleviate skin diseases such as neurodermatitis

Anyone suffering from skin diseases such as neurodermatitis, psoriasis, acne or sun allergy can also benefit from light therapy. In contrast to the treatment of depression, however,  UV light is  used instead of white light. The two forms of light therapy must therefore be strictly separated from each other.

UV light has an anti-inflammatory effect, so that many of those affected experience an improvement in their symptoms as a result of light therapy. Among other things, the treatment ensures that  itching  is relieved and that fewer skin cells are formed in psoriasis.

Side effects of light therapy

Light therapy with white light is usually well tolerated. Side effects only occur in rare cases. Then there can be problems like:

  • headache
  • skin redness
  • dry mucous membranes
  • burning eyes

If you experience side effects during treatment, be sure to talk to your doctor about it. Depending on the symptoms, a decision will then be made as to whether you can continue the therapy or not.

When is light therapy not suitable?

People who  suffer from glaucoma  or have already had a  retinal detachment  should consult their ophthalmologist before starting light therapy. The same applies to people who suffer from skin diseases or internal diseases such as  lupus  erythematosus.

Caution is also required with medications that increase the sensitivity of the skin to light. In addition to St. John’s wort, this also includes certain  antibiotics  and psychotropic drugs.

Side effects in skin diseases

If phototherapy with UV light is carried out, you should definitely be informed about the possible risks beforehand. Because the treatment can attack the skin and age it faster. If UV-B rays are used, pigments are also formed more intensively, causing the skin to turn brown.

In general, it should be noted that UV rays can damage the genetic material in the cells. The cells can repair minor damage themselves, but this is no longer possible with larger damage. Such damage to the genome can then promote the development of cancer – for example a malignant melanoma.

cost of light therapy

Depending on the purpose for which the light therapy is used, it varies whether the costs are covered by health insurance or not. Those affected usually have to bear the costs for a light therapy lamp or radiation themselves if these are used to treat winter depression. However, the treatment is usually not expensive, a session costs between 8 and 15 euros.

On the other hand, light therapy, as used for skin diseases such as neurodermatitis or psoriasis, is significantly more expensive. However, you should definitely talk to your health insurance company, as some of the costs for the therapy will be covered.

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