Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is the use of a specialized machine to emit only a specific wavelength of the light spectrum. Light therapy consists of exposure to specific wavelengths of light using lasers, LEDs, fluorescent lamps, dichroic lamps or very bright, full-spectrum light, for a prescribed amount of time. Each wavelength in the light spectrum is said to possess specific qualities. Advocates claim that each wavelength may assist a person who is diagnosed with a particular condition experience relief. Light therapy machines offer more of a particularly useful wavelength than would be available by exposure to the sun.
The use of light therapy in medicine has a long history. Although phototherapy had no scientific basis at the time, natural sunlight was used for medical treatments in ancient Egypt and Greece. Later, Roman and Arab physicians introduced light therapy into general medical use. The Danish physician Niels Ryberg Finsen founded modern light therapy about 100 years ago. In 1903, he was awarded with the Nobel Prize in medicine for his achievements with light therapy. Finsen created the first device to generate technically synthesized sunlight and achieved outstanding results in the treatment of patients suffering from a special type of skin tuberculosis.
Today it is known that the human organism transforms light into electrochemical energy, which activates a chain of biochemical reactions within cells, stimulating metabolism and reinforcing the immune response of the entire human body. The human response to light therapy is more complicated. Natural sunlight does not offer wavelengths of useful light in strong enough concentrations.
Light therapy is a first line treatment for neonatal jaundice. It is also very popular as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved a special type of light therapy machine to treat psoriasis. Light therapy is approved by major medical organizations for the treatment of these conditions. Light therapy is sometimes used to treat other difficult conditions, including chronic wounds or skin problems, burns, chronic rheumatic conditions, acute joint pains, acute sports injuries, post-operative scar healing, hair loss and dandruff, periodontitis, and gynecological disorders.
In recent years, an increasing number of individuals have used light therapy to treat delayed sleep phase syndrome, and acne. The medical community is currently conducting clinical trials of light therapy for these purposes.
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