Light Therapy

Light Therapy

Light therapy is a type of alternative treatment that is sometimes used to treat mood disorders, particularly seasonal affective disorder, abbreviated as SAD. SAD is when a person becomes depressed during a particular period of the year, usually during fall or winter months in countries with distinct seasons. During fall and winter, daylight hours are fewer and the weather may prevent exposure to sunlight on a regular basis. Light therapy rectifies this by providing the patient with regular exposure to light via a light therapy box that mimics natural light. This treatment is believed to stimulate the brain chemicals and neurotransmitters that affect mood, thereby lessening symptoms of SAD. Light therapy may also be of use to those suffering from depression, insomnia, and other conditions. It is sometimes referred to as phototherapy or bright light therapy.

Basis

People turn to light therapy for a variety of reasons. It has been proven as an effective form of treatment for SAD. In addition, some doctors may recommend it for other conditions. Unlike prescription antidepressants, light therapy does not involve any side effects, which means that some people are more willing to try it out as a form of treatment. It is also safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. In some cases, people use light therapy in conjunction with antidepressants or other forms of treatment for depression. Light therapy can increase the effectiveness of other treatments and in some cases make it possible for the individual to take less medication.

Light Therapy - 1

Usage

Light therapy is primarily used to treat SAD, but it may be useful in other situations and settings. For instance, it is sometimes prescribed for non-seasonal mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety. It may assist people with sleep disturbances, such as those who regularly experience jet lag, do shift work that involves working through the night, or suffer from sleep conditions. It has also been used to improve symptoms of dementia.

Caution

It is extremely important to speak to your doctor if you are thinking about starting light therapy. Your doctor can help you to identify whether light therapy is a good treatment for you. If you have a skin condition, such as lupus, or an eye condition, light therapy may exacerbate the problem. In addition, if you are taking medication that increases your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, for instance antibiotics, light therapy might not be a good option. Individuals who have had skin cancer are also not recommended to use light therapy.

Fighting winter depression

Risks

Light therapy is fairly safe. Reported side effects have mostly been mild and temporary. These include: nausea, agitation, headaches, eyestrain, and irritability. In individuals with bipolar disorder, mania, hyperactivity, agitation, and euphoria are also risks. Side effects usually go away on their own. However, if they persist, it might be advisable to reduce your treatment time, to sit farther away from the light box, to take breaks during light therapy sessions, or to complete sessions at another time of day. You should contact your physician to discuss side effects if you experience them.