All About Phototherapy (Light therapy) | Physiotherapy

Phototherapy (Light therapy)

Overview of phototherapy

Phototherapy is a type of medical treatment that involves exposure to fluorescent bulbs or other light sources such as halogen lights, sunlight, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to treat certain medical conditions.

There are different types and types of phototherapy, as well as the technique your doctor uses, depending on the condition for which you are being treated. Phototherapy, also known as light therapy, is an innovative option to effectively treat many types of skin ailments.

What is light therapy involved?

  • Referral from a consulting dermatologist is required and receives our physical therapy department.
  • An initial skin test is set up, which takes about 1 hour.
  • You will be given a schedule of weekly sessions, generally three per week. Sessions are short at the beginning and increase gradually throughout the course.
  • Your dermatologist will review your progress during treatment and interrupt the course when the skin condition clears or improves significantly.

Starting phototherapy

In general, most people with seasonal affective disorder begin treatment with gentle treatment in early fall, which is often cloudy in many parts of the country. The treatment usually lasts until spring, when only open light is enough to maintain a good mood and a high level of energy.

If you generally have fall and winter depression, you may notice symptoms in cloudy or rainy weather during other seasons. You and your doctor can adjust your gentle treatment based on the timing and duration of your symptoms. If you want to try light therapy for non-seasonal depression or another condition, talk to your doctor about the effectiveness of phototherapy.

During phototherapy treatment

  • During light therapy sessions, you sit or work near a lightbox. To be effective, the light from the softbox must enter your eyes indirectly. You cannot get the same effect by exposing your skin to light.
  • Keep your eyes open, do not look directly into the lightbox, as the bright light can damage your eyes. Strictly follow your doctor’s recommendations and the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • The light treatment takes time and consistency. You can place your lightbox on a table or desk in your home or office. That way you can read, use the computer, write, watch TV, talk on the phone, or eat while doing light therapy. Follow your treatment schedule and don’t overdo it.

Three key elements for the impact of light therapy

Phototherapy is most effective when you have the right combination of light intensity, duration, and timing.

  • Intensity: The intensity of the lightbox is recorded in lux, which is a measure of the amount of light it receives. For SAD, the general recommendation is to use a 10,000 lux softbox at a distance of 16 to 24 inches (41 to 61 centimetres) from your face.
  • Duration: With a 10,000 lux lightbox, light therapy generally consists of 20 to 30 minutes of daily sessions. But a low-intensity lightbox like the 2,500 lux lightbox may require more sessions. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines and follow your doctor’s instructions. He or she may suggest that you start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the time.
  • Timing: For most people, phototherapy is most effective when you first wake up and finish in the morning. Your doctor can help you determine the best light therapy program for you.

History of phototherapy

Phototherapy was used to treat medical conditions 3,500 years ago when ancient Egyptians and Indians used sunlight to treat skin conditions such as vitiligo.

Modern phototherapy, using artificial light sources, began with Niels Ryberg Finsen. He is widely regarded as the founder of modern phototherapy, which treats lupus vulgaris with sunlight and ultraviolet radiation. Since then, the use of phototherapy in the medical field has increased, the methods have been improved and developed, and eventually, it has gained wide acceptance.

Skin disorders

The phototherapy treatment involves using UV light a kind of light present in sunlight to reduce skin cell growth and inflammation.

Many skin conditions can be treated with phototherapy, including:

  • Actinic keratosis (precancerous skin cells)
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (mycosis fungoides)
  • Eczema
  • Graft versus host disease
  • Hand/foot dermatitis or palmar-plantar psoriasis
  • Lichen planus
  • Morphea (localized scleroderma)
  • Polymorphic light eruption (“solar poisoning”)
  • Prurigo nodularis
  • Pruritus (severe, chronic itching as a result of liver or kidney disease or an infection with the HIV virus)
  • Psoriasis
  • Scleroderma
  • Vitiligo

Risk factors for phototherapy

  • In general, phototherapy treatments have many risks to consider.
  • For one thing, UV rays can cause progressive and gradual damage to your skin at the molecular level. This premature aging of the skin is also known as photoaging.
  • Excessive exposure to artificial ultraviolet light also increases the risk of skin cancer. The more treatments you do and the better for your skin, the higher your risk of skin cancer
  • Frequent phototherapy treatments can also lead to reduced immunity. In general, light therapy suppresses your immune system, exposing your body to disease, infection, and even skin cancers.
  • Also, having PUVA skin treatments or photodynamic therapy for cancer can make your eyes more sensitive to light. If your eyes are not adequately protected after such treatments, their sensitivity can damage the eye by exposure to sunlight or other bright lights and lead to the development of cataracts.

Treatment of phototherapy

Your dermatologist will diagnose the skin condition you are experiencing and then prescribe the appropriate phototherapy treatment. Your dermatologist will prescribe a treatment one to three times a week. As a patient, you have an early teaching appointment. During that time, a nurse will guide you to the phototherapy unit and review the treatments prescribed by your dermatologist. At this point, a test can be done to confirm your sensitivity to the sun. Treatment rooms have an area where patients can prepare for and receive phototherapy treatments. A nurse will provide phototherapy treatment at each scheduled appointment.

Advanced treatments of the department:

  • Gentle UVA Treatment: Gentle treatment that uses only UVA rays without additional topical or oral medications. It is often used to desensitize sun allergy.
  • Narrowband UVB: Psoriasis, eczema, and other skin conditions can be treated with narrowband UVB.
  • PUVA treatment: When receiving PUVA treatments, patients should soak in a photosensitizing solution called Psoralen, which increases sensitivity to UV light, before receiving UVA treatment. Lockers with showers are provided for patients to bathe after the body has received the PUVA treatments.
  • Day Hospital Program: Some patients with severe psoriasis and other skin conditions are referred for phototherapy for day hospital treatment. Treatments may include two baths a day, followed by topical treatments prescribed by your dermatologist.
  • Broadband UVB: Psoriasis, eczema, and other skin conditions can be treated with broadband UVB light.
  • Light Therapy for Hands and Feet: Using UVA light or narrowband UVB light, a hand and foot machine can be used to treat skin conditions that particularly affect these areas.
  • Scalp Treatment: Skin conditions such as psoriasis can be treated with our UVB Narrow Band Skin Handhold Machine This machine is seriously aimed at treating areas of the scalp.


Phototherapy probably won’t cure the seasonal affective disorder, non-seasonal depression, or other conditions. But it can reduce symptoms, increase your energy levels, and help you feel better about yourself and about life.

Phototherapy begins to improve symptoms within a few days. In some cases, this can take two or more weeks.

Get the most out of phototherapy

Phototherapy is not effective for everyone. But you can take steps to get the most out of your phototherapy and help make it a success.

  • Get the right lightbox: Do some research and talk to your doctor before buying a phototherapy box. That way, you can be sure that your softbox is safe, has the right brightness, the right type of light, and its style and features are comfortable to use.
  • Be consistent: Follow a daily routine of phototherapy sessions to make sure you maintain improvement over time. If you can’t do phototherapy every day, take a day or two off, but monitor your mood and other symptoms; you must find a way to adjust to phototherapy every day.
  • Keep track of time: If you stop mild treatment in the winter or leave it too early in the spring when it is improving, your symptoms may return. Keep track of when your lightbox therapy starts in the fall and when it stops in the spring so you know when to start and finish your light therapy next year.
  • Include another treatment: If your symptoms do not improve enough with phototherapy, you may need additional treatment. Talk to your doctor about other treatment options, such as antidepressants or psychotherapy.

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