Red Light Therapy for Eczema Treatment

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Glowing and flawless skin reflects your health and is essential to boost your well-being and self-confidence. But unfortunately, people with eczema suffer from various discomforts associated with the condition. In this article, we dive into the topic of red light therapy for eczema. 

Nowadays, the use of phototherapy is gaining popularity due to its benefits and safety since conventional medication has failed to completely cure the disease.

Before we explore how red light therapy can provide relief to eczema patients, it’s important to know what the disease is all about, its prevalence, and symptoms.

What Is Red Light Therapy? 

Red light therapy, also known as low-level light therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation, is the application of light with wavelengths of 620-700nm to promote tissue repair and reduce inflammation. 

It heals the body without raising its temperature and affecting the gross tissue structure. As red light is emitted from a device, it targets the outer layer of the skin that’s called the epidermis. 

According to research, wavelengths of around 660 nanometers stimulate skin cells, improve blood circulation, and boost the production of collagen and elastin. As a result, people achieve better skin function and appearance [1].

Due to its non- invasive nature and minimal side effects, red light therapy is used for skin issues nowadays. At the same time, it’s successfully being used to treat problems such as pain, nerve injuries, sleeplessness, depression and hormonal problems.

What Is Eczema? 

Eczema, also called as atopic dermatitis, happens when the skin’s natural ability to protect against allergens and irritants is weakened or there exists a problem with the immune system. 

Associated with immunological abnormalities and environmental factors, this condition causes itching, dryness and inflammation, redness, swelling, and scaly patches on the skin [2]. It may start in infancy  or in childhood but can also occur in adulthood. Once someone has it, it becomes really hard to get rid of.

Sometimes itching in eczema is so intense that the patient scratches until it starts bleeding. Not only this, but there are many other problems associated with eczema including infections, eye problems, sleep problems, and psychological disorders such as anxiety. 

Stigmatization is common which may affect an individual’s self-perception [3] This is because there is a myth that this skin condition is contiguous. Though the disease is not transferred from one person to another, people avoid contact with patients, causing emotional hurt and more discomfort. 

Here are some interesting stats on eczema: 

  • In the United States, around 31.6 million people are suffering from some form of eczema. More than 30% of the eczema patients claim sleep disturbance and more than 50% of them are frustrated by the disease [4]. 
  • 50- 70% of the kids who have eczema develop asthma [5].
  • More than half of the adults who have eczema avoid social gatherings because of their appearance.

How Red Light Therapy Helps In Treating Eczema

Phototherapy for dermatitis or the UV light therapy for eczema has gained popularity due to its non-invasive nature. 

The National Eczema Society reports that regular treatments of 2-3 times per week improve the skin gradually. Continuous treatment eventually clears eczema [6]. 

However, the excessive use of phototherapy may also lead to skin cancer, cataracts,  sunburn and even premature skin aging [7]. 

No one wants to get trapped into these serious problems as a result of getting treatment for eczema. Therefore, these patients need a kind of light therapy that has more benefits with minimum to zero side effects. 

This is where visible red light comes in. It reduces inflammation anywhere on the body, including the skin. Once red light therapy controls inflammation, a patient no longer feels the need to scratch more often. 

People who have tried light therapy for eczema have observed signs of improving eczema. The efficacy of the red light therapy for inflammation can be judged from the fact that it is even used  to control inflammation in the brain [8]. 

Light therapy can help in treating localised and widespread eczema if the patient is unable to get relief from topical treatment and conventional medicines. If you see the symptoms and problems associated with eczema, red light therapy can also help in curing those issues individually. 

1. Controls Skin Dryness and Roughness

Eczema patients experience skin dryness and roughness which red light therapy treatment helps with. A person’s skin tone also improves as a result of increased blood flow. 

2. Controls Eczema-Related Infections

Microorganisms such as viruses and fungi bacteria can exacerbate eczema. Patients may have to go take oral antibiotics that may cause side effects and become ineffective over time. The red light therapy for eczema can help fight these bacterial infections.

3. Treats Itching and Redness

The most annoying problem associated with eczema is itching and the feeling to scratch. Frequent scratching leads to redness and swelling. RLT works by targeting the upper skin layer where nerve cells that sense itching are located. 

Researchers have experimented this on a mice sample by treating the affected skin area with near infrared radiation and concluded that the method works well in mice with eczema and can prove to be a good option for treating eczema in humans as well [9]. 

4. Reduces Skin Darkness and Scarring

Eczema can lead to skin discoloration and scarring and darkness which can be controlled with the use of red light therapy. Some people even report dramatic reductions in skin pigmentation. 

5. Controls Sleeplessness

People with eczema are more likely to experience sleep problems. A study that surveyed around 35,000 people with eczema showed a higher chance of fatigue, insomnia, and daytime sleepiness. The study also reported that patients often had sick days and doctor visits due to disturbed sleep [10]. 

There is clear evidence that red light therapy can help with sleeplessness by managing your circadian rhythm [11]. Once you have better sleep, there is a less chance that eczema will flare up.

6. RLT is Helpful in Treating Depression

As mentioned earlier, atopic eczema is also associated with depression and anxiety, but the nature of this association remains unclear. 

Perhaps it’s due to lack of confidence, embarrassment, and low self esteem. Patients suffering from various types of disorders such as seasonal affective disorders, major depressive disorder and anxiety are now opting for light therapy treatment due to its non invasive nature. 

The use of red light therapy can help eczema patients get some relief from anxiety and depression

Risk & Drawbacks 

It is important that patients realize that red light therapy for eczema is used to treat the disease and not merely for the purpose of beautification and skin rejuvenation. 

Therefore despite the proven benefits of this light therapy, it’s important that you consult your doctor first and ask for their opinion. Depending on the severity of your disease, your doctor might ask you to go for a combination of medication and RLT. 

Some people, however, do not know how to operate a light therapy device or fail to read the manual. As a result, they misuse the device. 

This may lead to skin burn or blisters. Protective goggles are also recommended during the treatment since bright red light may cause discomfort to the eyes.

Read more about the possible side effects of RLT and how to minimize them

Other Eczema Treatments

Currently, eczema can also be controlled through:

  • Topical treatments – This includes moisturizing the affected area one or twice a day. Doctors may also prescribe a corticosteroid cream or ointment but overusing such cream may lead to skin thinning. 
  • Systemic medications – Eczema patients may also be given oral antibiotics or oral corticosteroid to fight infection and control inflammation but they come with side effects.
  • Biologics – A new treatment option approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  is injectable biologic (monoclonal antibody) called dupilumab (Dupixent). This is used when other treatment options do not work well. However, this option is quite expensive [12].

Conventional treatments may cause issues in patients with weak immune systems. Therefore, caution should be taken when going for these treatment options. We’re fortunate to have red light therapy as a safe alternative. 

Conclusion

Red light therapy helps in controlling rashes, itching, redness, and inflammation in people with eczema. 

The best thing about red light therapy is that nowadays, several FDA-registered red light therapy devices such as nuYOU LED have been introduced so that you can minimize the impact of this skin condition. 

Red light therapy for eczema can be effectively used at home. Once you know how to use a light therapy device to treat a particular issue, you don’t have to rush to your doctor again and again. 

These devices have complete instruction manuals and are affordable than conventional methods. Another advantage is that these LED skin therapy devices don’t take a lot of power, making it safer an option for eczema patients because there are minimal chances of skin burn. 

Remember to always consult your doctor prior to undergoing any kind of light therapy.


References:

  1. Wunsch A & Matuschka K. A controlled trial to determine the efficacy of red and near-infrared light treatment in patient satisfaction, reduction of fine lines, wrinkles, skin roughness, and intradermal collagen density increase. 2013 November 28 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24286286/
  2. National Eczema Association. What is Eczema? https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/
  3. Chernyshov PV. Stigmatization and self-perception in children with atopic dermatitis. 2016 Jul 21 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4959581/
  4. National Eczema Association. Eczema Stats. https://nationaleczema.org/research/eczema-facts/
  5. Ericson G. Researchers discover why eczema often leads to asthma. 2009 May 18 –  https://source.wustl.edu/2009/05/researchers-discover-why-eczema-often-leads-to-asthma/#:~:text=Fifty%20percent%20to%2070%20percent,and%207%20percent%20in%20adults.
  6.  National Eczema Society. Phototherapy. https://eczema.org/information-and-advice/treatments-for-eczema/phototherapy/#:~:text=Natural%20sunlight%20can%20help%20reduce,effect%20on%20the%20immune%20system.
  7. National Eczema Association. Prescription Phototherapy – https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/treatment/phototherapy/
  8. Hamblin MR. Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation. 2017 May 19 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5523874/7
  9. European Molecular Biology Laboratory.  Using light to stop itch. 2018 December 17 – https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-12-using-light-to-stop-itch.html
  10.  Jonathan I. et al. Sleep Disturbances in Adults with Eczema Are Associated with Impaired Overall Health: A US Population-Based Study. 2015 January – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022202X15370469
  11.  Zhao J et al. Red light and the sleep quality and endurance performance of Chinese female basketball players. 2012 November-Dec – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3499892/
  12.  Mayo Clinic. Atopic dermatitis (eczema) –  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atopic-dermatitis-eczema/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353279

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