Light therapy for depression

With the help of a light therapy different illnesses can be treated. The light shower is used, for example, in the treatment of depression. In addition, however, skin diseases such as acne, atopic dermatitis or psoriasis (psoriasis) can be alleviated by light. While white light is used in depression, skin diseases use UV rays. 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 mainly used to treat seasonal depression (winter depression). Ideally, the light exposure takes place immediately after getting up in the morning. This slows down the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which is only produced in the dark. The hormone, which is significantly involved in the regulation of our sleep-wake cycle, is said to have a depressant effect.

For mild to moderate winter depression, the efficacy of light therapy is well documented. According to statistics, the symptoms improve in six to nine out of ten patients. However, the treatment may not only help with seasonal depression but is also effective in other types of depression. Here it usually comes as a supplement to treatment methods such as the use of antidepressants used.

This is how the treatment works

In light therapy, patients are exposed to bright artificial light. This process is also referred to as a light shower. As part of the treatment, white light is used that corresponds in terms of spectrum to sunlight. Ideally, the therapy is done daily for at least 20 to 30 minutes. The patient sits about one meter away from the light source.

The patient does not have to look directly into the light source during treatment. However, it is important that the light falls on the retina. During the irradiation you can therefore read the newspaper or have breakfast. It is sufficient if you look from time to time towards the light therapy lamp.

High illuminance is important

How long the irradiation should take on a daily basis depends on the strength of the light source. In any case, a very bright light source must be used. Normal bulbs, which bring it to about 300 to 500 lux, are not enough. Ideally, you use a 10, 000 lux light source. Half an hour of radiation is sufficient to achieve a detectable effect.

As part of the treatment, a light therapy device and thus artificial light is used. But natural sunlight is also suitable for therapy. Studies show that more and more people spend too little time outdoors. Therefore, go to the door regularly and soak up the sun and light. In clear skies, shortly after sunrise, 10, 000 lux are also prevalent outdoors.

Relieve skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis

Anyone suffering from skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne or a sun allergy, can also benefit from a light therapy. However, in contrast to the treatment of depression no white light, but UV light is used. The two forms of light therapy are therefore strictly separate.

UV light has an anti-inflammatory effect, so that many people affected by the light therapy to improve their symptoms. Among other things, the treatment ensures that itching is alleviated and less psoriasis is formed in psoriasis.

Side effects of light therapy

A light therapy with white light is usually well tolerated. Side effects occur only in rare cases. Then it can cause discomfort such as headache, redness, dry mucous membranes and burning eyes. If you experience any side effects during treatment, talk to your doctor about it. Depending on the condition, he will decide whether you can continue the therapy or not.

People who are suffering from glaucoma or have already had a retinal detachment should consult their ophthalmologist before initiating light therapy. The same applies to people who suffer from skin diseases or internal diseases such as lupus erythematosus. Even with drugs that increase the photosensitivity of the skin, caution is required. These include St. John's wort as well as certain antibiotics and psychotropic drugs.

Side effects of skin diseases

If a light therapy with UV light is carried out, you should first inform your doctor about possible risks. Because the treatment can attack the skin and age faster. If UV-B rays are used, pigments are also increasingly formed, causing the skin to turn brown.

In general, it should be noted that the genetic material in the cells can be damaged by UV rays. Minor damage can be repaired by the cells themselves, but it is no longer possible for larger damage. Such damage to the genetic material can then promote the development of a cancer - for example, a malignant melanoma.

Cost of light therapy

Depending on the purpose for which the light therapy is used, it is different whether the costs are covered by the health insurance or not. Patients, for example, generally have to bear the cost of a light therapy lamp or doctor's radiation if they are being used to treat winter depression. However, the treatment is usually not expensive, a session costs between 8 and 15 euros.

On the other hand, it is significantly more expensive to use a light therapy such as that used for skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis or psoriasis. However, you should definitely talk to your health insurance here, in some cases the costs for the therapy are taken over.

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