Light Therapy part 9

Overview of Light Therapy

Side Effects of Light Therapy

Potential side effects of light therapy are rare and most often include jitteriness, a feeling of eyestrain and headache. Light therapy, like antidepressant medications, occasionally will cause patients to switch into a manic state during which they may have difficulty sleeping, become restless or irritable, and feel "speedy" or too high (Terman & Terman, 1999).
According to Kogan & Guilford (1998) the most common side effects are headaches and eye or vision problems. In their study almost all side effects were mild, transient, and did not interfere with treatment. However they advocate that individuals taking certain medications such as Lithium, tricyclic antidepressants, and neuroleptics and individuals with conditions such as diabetes or retinal degeneration should be monitored by an ophthalmologist. One of the symptoms of SAD & S-SAD is that the individual May experience period of mania during spring and autumn. They will feel anything is possible and will have a seemingly unlimited amount of energy. It is these individuals who are most prone to mania being a side effect from light therapy and should reduce their exposure time accordingly. There has been debate on whether there might be long-term retinal effects, associated with light therapy but none have been documented when lights with proper screening of UV wavelengths are used (Lee et al, 1998a). Some of the most common initial side effects of light therapy subside a few hours after treatment is finished and generally disappear altogether after several exposures. If, after four days, the irritation persists or becomes worse, the individual should sit a little further away from the light box, reducing their exposure. It should be noted that side effects from light treatment are not dangerous and are minimal when compared to the unpleasant side effects of antidepressant drugs (Terman & Terman, 1999). It has been found that people have their own individual thresholds for light therapy, and need to find their own particular threshold and stay within it during treatment. Because this form of treatment is fairly new, many doctors recommend a baseline eye exam and annual monitoring (Smyth, 1990). If a person has an eye/skin condition or migraines, which is affected by bright light, they should consult a doctor before embarking on light therapy, If a person is suffering from disorders such as glaucoma, cataracts, retinal detachment, retinopathy, then they should not undergo bright light treatment. The bright light could worsen their eye problem or cause a rash in a skin condition. If they suffer from hypertension, diabetes or have any history of eye disease in the family, they should seek medical advice before commencing light therapy (Lam & Levitt, 1999). Light therapy has been shown to be a successful, non-invasive therapy without significant side effects, within many spheres of our lives. Indeed, a Canadian study has revealed improvements in academic achievement, attendance records and growth rates in the classroom when children were treated with bright light. It also showed a reduction in tooth decay. Another study at Cornell University showed that working under very bright lighting helped to reduce perceptual fatigue. The positive implications and applications of light therapy are only just being recognised; it is clear that in the future we will need to re-think how we use lighting within our schools, workplaces, hospitals and homes.

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