We know that life could not exist without light, but we take light for granted. The sun rises and sets each day, allowing us to see and keep warm, but scientists continue to discover what light actually does. And there are magnificent properties of light that can be harnessed for healing. UV light (ultraviolet light) shows particular promise in healing wounds, infections and even some psychological disorders.
It is generally understood that the body needs light and that some light has health benefits to the body. Your body needs light to make vitamin D. Perhaps you are also familiar with the use of UV light for purifying water.
And if you think about it, you know that some kinds of light have long been used in hospitals for healing. Babies with jaundice are treated with light therapy. Neonatal jaundice is not the only condition treated with light or UV therapy.
What is UV Light?
In science class you learned about the colors of the rainbow – beginning with red and ending with violet. The colors of the rainbow are the components of “visible light” but there is a much broader range of light in the universe, most of which you cannot see. The light that has wavelengths higher than those of the color red are called “infrared light.” Microwaves and radiowaves, respectively, have even longer wavelengths. The light with wavelengths less than that of the color violet are called “ultraviolet light.” X-rays are also made up of waves that are even smaller than the ultraviolet rays.
Just as visible light is broken down into the colors, each with a specific wavelength, UV light is classified as UVA, UVB and UVC. The UVC light has the shortest wavelengths (180 nm -280 nm) and UVA the longest wavelengths (315 nm – 400 nm.) UVB is in the middle (280 nm – 315 nm).1 Each type of UV light has different properties that are utilized for healing. UVA light is the most penetrating of the three, whereas the UVC light is the least. Yet each has specific ways to help with healing, in the right dose.
What is UV Light Good For?
UVC light has antimicrobial properties, is used currently to sterilize medical equipment and has been found effective for infections like MRSA, ulcers and candida albicans.
UVB is used for its positive effect on the immune system and to encourage wounded tissue to heal. It is currently used in healing for psoriasis and lichen planus.
UVA light has been found to be quite effective for morphea (localized scleroderma.)
Light therapy has also been an effective treatment for those who suffer with SAD (seasonal affective disorder.) SAD is type of depression that is common during winter months, when there is less sunshine. An indoor UV light makes up for this lack of sunlight.
Should I Use a Tanning Bed to get UV Light?
Tanning beds deliver UVA light to the skin and much more of it than you would get from the sun. The UVA light is the most penetrating. The high concentration of the UVA light would make a tanning bed an unsuitable way to use light therapy for health for most health conditions, especially considering the health risks associated with tanning beds.
Statistics show that using an indoor tanning bed before the age of 35 can increase the risk of melanoma by 75%.2 Those who used tanning beds have a 67% increased risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma and a 29% increased risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.3
UV Light Side Effects
Ultraviolet (UV) light is a promising natural remedy for many conditions, but is not without risk. Just as with using herbs, foods and other natural remedies, “the dose makes the poison.” There is a sweet spot of just how much and how often UV light should be used to treat medical problems. Too much of the treatment can cause problems worse than the initial condition being treated!
Too much UV light causes burns. Long term exposure is linked to cancers. If your eyes are overexposed to UV lights they can be damaged and even blindness can result.
How Can I Make Use of Light Therapy?
Make sure you get some sunshine each day. You will have less risk of harmful sun exposure if you get your sunshine before 10 am or after 4 pm.
If you have a specific health condition that you think will benefit from light therapy, find a qualified health professional to assist you. This will help to ensure that you are getting the most benefit with the least risk.
Have you use UV therapy for a health issue? Please share your story with us!
1. Navy Environmental Health Center. The Ultraviolet Radiation Guide. April 1992. http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcphc/Documents/policy-and-instruction/ih-ultraviolet-radiation-technical-guide.pdf, page 4.
2. The International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group. The association of use of sunbeds with cutaneous malignant melanoma and other skin cancers: a systematic review. Int J Canc 2006; 120:1116-1122.
3. Wehner M, Chren M-M, Nameth D, et al. International prevalence of indoor tanning: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Dermatol 2014; 150(4):390-400. Doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.6896.
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