What is Blue Light Therapy?
Blue light therapy uses light to treat certain conditions on or just under the skin. It’s considered a pain-free procedure.
Blue light therapy becomes photodynamic therapy when it uses a combination of photosynthesizing (or light-sensitive) drugs and a high-intensity light source to activate them. The light used is a natural violet or blue light, and it’s considered to be an alternative treatment.
Blue light therapy can only treat areas that the light can reach. So it’s typically used to treat conditions present on, or just underneath, the surface of the skin.
Purpose and uses of Blue Light Therapy
SUN DAMAGE AND SKIN CANCER PREVENTION
Blue light therapy is most commonly used to treat sun damage and premalignant or malignant skin cancer growths. It can actually be used to prevent skin cancer and remove both precancerous skin lesions and cancerous skin lesions that haven’t spread to other areas of the body (or metastasized).
Photodynamic therapy can be used to treat skin cancer. It causes the photosynthesizing drug that’s been applied to the skin to react with oxygen, killing the cancer cells. It may also be used to trigger an immune system defense or damage the blood vessels feeding the cancer cells.
ACNE AND SKINCARE
Blue light therapy can also treat other types of skin disorders. It can be used to improve skin texture and reduce sebaceous hyperplasia, or enlarged oil glands. It can help with removing sun spots, acne, and even scars that were originally caused by acne.
In addition to treating skin conditions and cancer, blue light therapy can also be used as a treatment for depression.
It’s especially effective when treating major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns, formerly known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This condition is often partially caused by dreary winter weather, darker days, and spending more time indoors. It can be treated with light.
HOW BLUE LIGHT THERAPY WORKS
Blue light therapy treatment is usually a very quick process, and is almost always done as an outpatient procedure. The exception to this may be photodynamic therapy on high-risk areas for cancer treatment.
In office, your doctor or skin care specialist will escort you to a darkened room. If they’re using photosynthesizing drugs, they’ll apply the medication topically, directly to the area being treated.
If these drugs are being used, the medication may need to be on the skin for a couple of hours up to a couple of days, for the skin to absorb the medication. Regardless of how long it’s left on, you’ll be advised to stay out of the sunlight and other bright light, protect your skin, and stay indoors as much as possible while the medication is on.
When your doctor administers the light treatment, they’ll give you goggles to wear to protect your eyes, and then they’ll apply light to the target area.
Treatment sessions can be anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes long, depending on the area being treated, how large it is, and if a topical medication has been applied. If it’s just one small area being treated, like a single spot of skin cancer, the affected area will have blue light applied to it for about 17 minutes.
People with depression and depression with a seasonal pattern, may have their own blue light therapy devices at home, which they can use on a daily basis to resolve symptoms.