SHORT NOTE ON PHOTOTHERAPY-BASIC CLINICAL SCIENCES

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Light Therapy
Image by cabarney via Flickr

Phototherapy

Definition

Phototherapy, or light therapy, is the administration of doses of bright light in order to normalize the body‘s internal clock and/or relieve depression.

DESCRIPTION

Phototherapy is generally administered at home. The most commonly used phototherapy equipment is a portable lighting device known as a light box. The box may be mounted upright to a wall, or slanted downwards towards a table. The patient sits in front of the box for a prescribed period of time (anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours).

Some patients with SAD undergo phototherapy sessions two or three times a day, others only once. The time of day and number of times treatment is administered depend on the physical needs and lifestyle of the individual patient.

If phototherapy has been prescribed for the treatment of SAD, it typically begins in the fall months as the days begin to shorten, and continues throughout the winter and possibly the early spring.

The light from a slanted light box is designed to focus on the table it sits upon, so patients may look down to read or do other sedentary activities during therapy. Patients using an upright light box must face the light source (although they need not look directly into the light).

The light sources in these light boxes typically range from 2,500–10,000 lux. (In contrast, average indoor lighting is 300–500 lux; a sunny summer day is about 100,000 lux).

Phototherapy prescribed for the treatment of SAD may be covered by insurance. Individuals requiring phototherapy should check with their insurance company to see if the cost of renting or purchasing a light box is covered.

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