Red Light Therapy for Eczema: Is Red and NIR light the solution?
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a condition that over 30 million Americans experience. It is characterized by red, dry and itchy skin with no cure and can show up anywhere on the skin. “One in 10 individuals will develop eczema during their lifetime, with prevalence peaking in early childhood.” Treatment for eczema as with most chronic conditions, revolves around symptom management.
Eczema not only causes social and physical distress to those who have it, but it's also notoriously tough to treat. People diagnosed with eczema must learn to manage their symptoms by a combination of lifestyle adjustments and therapeutic trial and error.
What are the different types of eczema?
- Atopic dermatitis.
- Contact dermatitis.
- Dyshidrotic eczema.
- Nummular eczema.
- Seborrheic dermatitis.
- Stasis dermatitis.
What are the causes and triggers of Eczema?
Eczema is identified to be caused by a combination of “immune system activation,” stress, genetics and environmental triggers. There is not one known cause. It's most commonly observed on the hands, neck, inner elbows, ankles, knees, feet, and around the eyes. Eczema can get confused with psoriasis as they have similar features.
Fortunately for eczema patients, researchers and skin health professionals are increasingly recognizing red light therapy as a safe and natural treatment to treat a variety of skin diseases, including eczema. Red light therapy has the potential to reduce the symptoms associated with eczema, such as redness and itchiness and improve the appearance of skin rashes, as well as decrease inflammation.
We encourage you to always communicate your concerns with your healthcare professional regarding the type of skin condition you may have. You can have multiple skin factors simultaneously. Treatments that are effective for one may not be therapeutic for the other.
Let's take a look at how Red Light Therapy can support Eczema.
How does Red Light Therapy for Eczema work?
Red light therapy works by enhancing energy production within your cells, allowing your body to employ its own natural defences to lessen symptoms and prevent flare-ups.
How does it accomplish this?
Red and near-infrared light penetrate the epidermis all the way to the mitochondrion, the cellular organelle that produces adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body's energy source. It causes a physiological response that allows the mitochondrion to create ATP more efficiently by leveraging oxygen.
Red light therapy also helps by creating hormesis, a process in which the body is mildly stressed to elicit a response that enhances the tissues affected, leading them to respond effectively to future stress. An example of hormesis is“ low-level exposure to an antibiotic may stimulate the growth of harmful bacteria that could be harmful to human patients yet theoretically beneficial to the bacteria. As a general concept, hormesis is an adaptive response that has been evolutionarily favored and is highly conserved. Therefore, it would be expected to confirm benefit to the species and individual.” (Elyisha A. Hanniman, Christopher J. Sinal, 2005). When it comes to eczema, hormesis may imply bolstering your body's resistance to potential stressors.
In multiple laboratory studies, red light therapy has been found to be useful in the treatment of eczema, notably when used in combination with other methods. Anything from anti-inflammatory medication to hydrotherapy has been explored in combination with light therapy treatments, and the results have been promising. As seen in this 2013 study, researchers noted the benefits of red light therapy in combination with an immunosuppressive drug. As a result, inflammation was reduced and skin lesions were significantly less severe.
Red Light Therapy was combined with a hot bath in the treatment of eczema in this 2015 study. The study concluded the following, “The combination therapy of LED and water bath might be used as an efficacious, safe, and steroid-free alternative therapeutic strategy for the treatment of AD.” (Chang-Hyun Kim, Kyung Ah Cheong, Won Suk Lim, Hyung-Moo Park, Ai-Young Lee, 2015).
Researchers in this study followed 81 patients for nearly a year in one of the first human experiments examining red light therapy and eczema. The individuals were monitored based on how their symptoms progressed with the red light therapy application. Researchers were looking at eczema rashes before, during, and after participants used red light therapy. Only one 2-minute red light therapy session each week was given. With such a brief treatment, researchers discovered significant improvements in common eczema symptoms, such as a reduction in swelling, flaking and redness. Additionally, there were "no negative effects during or after" the red light treatments which is consistent with numerous studies on red light therapy for skin and health.
As suggested above, red light therapy improves the functioning of your organs and tissues at the cellular level, which means the advantages could be far reaching. Possible added benefits include:
When integrating red light therapy into your wellness regimen, consistent use is key. Nonetheless, in the study cited above, even occasional, brief treatments provided a substantial improvement in the group of eczema patients studied. More study on red light therapy and eczema is merited, and studies are actively ongoing. The existing evidence reveals that red light therapy can help patients with eczema reduce irritation and inflammation, as well as improve skin lesions, ultimately speeding up healing and lessening chronic symptoms.
Before committing to a new therapeutic approach, we encourage you to first speak to a qualified healthcare practitioner or dermatologist who can provide further insights into your eczema diagnosis.
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Elyisha A. Hanniman, Christopher J. Sinal, in Encyclopedia of Toxicology (Second Edition), 2005
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