Light and Therapy

August 04 2010 — by Carrie Donahue Bremner
Natural sunlight is the oldest form of light therapy. It regulates the human body clock, hormone production and biological functions, lowers bacterial contamination and stimulates the body’s natural healing processes.

Many forms of light therapy take their lead from natural sunlight. Two well known therapies, Full-spectrum and Bright Light Therapy, closely mimic the spectrum and intensity provided by natural sunlight, which plays a reduced role in the way the majority of people live their daily lives today. Historically these therapies have been used to treat tuberculosis and are used today to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder, migraines, eating disorders, depression and jet lag.

Image: BSIP Astier / Science Photo Library

Image courtesy of the US National Library of Medicine

Certain modern medical procedures utilise isolated wavelengths of the light spectrum for specific therapies and treatments. Near Infrared Light Therapy, also known as Low Level Laser Therapy, has been found to stimulate cellular regeneration and is used to treat ulcers, help develop new blood vessels and to increase DNA and protein synthesis.

Due to its high luminosity Blue Light Therapy is used in the treatment of jaundice in new born infants. Monochromatic Red Light Therapy applied either directly to affected area or to acupressure points treats headaches, arthritic and tendonitis, while Syntonic Optometry, the application of coloured light directly to the eyes, targets inflammation and pain.

New Age therapies such as Colour Light Therapy and Crystal Light Healing focus specific wavelengths of light in treatments used to remedy stress, chronic anxiety and panic attacks.

A number of developing therapies use light-sensitive chemicals, medicines and dyes to target specific ailments at cellular level. UV light therapy is used for skin conditions such as vitiligo and psoriasis, where the drug psoralen is given to the patient and then exposed to full-body UV light to stimulate cellular reproduction. Photodynamic therapy similarly uses light-absorbing dyes injected into tumours which when exposed to light causes the cancer cells to die.