LLLT for Psoriasis
Recently, I received an interesting question from one of our customers who has psoriasis. He wrote:
"My research tells me that different medical research/studies reveal that all three, blue light, red light and near infrared light are beneficial for psoriasis. Which one do you think could help the most with my psoriasis?"
I am by no means an expert on psoriasis, but I did have a look at some of the studies online out of curiosity to see what various types of light therapy might be able to do for this condition. Perhaps those with psoriasis can discuss these ideas with their doctors to find out if they might be helpful in their particular case.
While reading about light therapy for psoriasis, what I gathered was that psoriasis is believed to involve over-activated T cells and excess proliferation of keratinocytes. It is the over-active T cells that are thought to be the main driver of the disease. Different types of light have been found to help different aspects of the disease, so it would make sense to choose the type of light that is supposed to help with the symptoms one is most concerned about.
Ultraviolet Light Therapy (UV-B) Is Sometimes Prescribed for Psoriasis
The most well-known form of light therapy for psoriasis is UV-B light therapy. Ultraviolet light in the B range deactivates the hyperactive T cells found in psoriasis by making the defective cells die off.
Many mainstream doctors prescribe this treatment and insist on closely monitoring patients to be sure they do not overdo their exposure to UV light. This is especially true because most tanning bed bulbs produce both UV-A and UV-B light, and UV-A is especially known to be a cause of skin cancer. Interestingly, the same has not yet been found to be true of UV-B light. In fact, at least one study has found that adequate doses of UV-B light are associated with a reduction in cancer risk overall.
Blue Light Therapy Shows Promise for Psoriasis
Blue light appears to be a promising treatment for psoriasis. It does seem to have some effect on T cells but it has a bigger effect on keratinocytes, as it seems to cause differentiation of keratinocytes, which could be helpful in reducing hyperproliferation of keratinocytes (read: it may reduce psoriasis plaques), so if I had to guess I would think this means that if plaques are your biggest complaint about your psoriasis, perhaps blue light might be the choice to ask your doctor about.
What About Red Light Therapy for Psoriasis?
Red light has been studied a bit but it doesn’t appear to be as helpful as blue or UV light for addressing the dysfunction in T cells or hyperproliferation of keratinocytes. The same goes for infrared light. However, these two types of light generally help with healing tissue and relieving joint pain. If you have arthritis with your psoriasis, these could be helpful for the joint pain.
One important thing to note is that all these types of light have at least one mechanism of action in common (increasing nitric oxide levels). It would not be desirable to overdo your total light dose at any one time. If you overdo it, you can undo the benefits received in that session and end up wondering why light therapy is not helping. So if you end up using more than one type of light on the same area, you wouldn’t want to use each one for the maximum session time back-to-back (for example).
Another important thing to remember is that the plaques characteristic of psoriasis can block some of the light from reaching the underlying area. In areas where there are plaques, progress may seem slow until the light can penetrate the plaques.
So, What Should You Do Next?
Those with psoriasis can speak with their doctors to get guidance on using various forms of light therapy to combat the symptoms they have. Fortunately, research shows that there are helpful light-based therapies available that are likely to provide significant improvement for psoriasis symptoms.