When NOT to Use Light Therapy
There are situations where light therapy is not a good idea. (The same goes for saunas.) Despite what certain other, irresponsible sellers claim, light therapy cannot help 100% of the people, 100% of the time. While it does have a high rate of effectiveness, there are situations where light therapy will not work or could even be harmful.
Here are some examples of situations when you should not use light therapy or a near-infrared sauna.
You Haven’t Done Patch Tests and Increased Exposure Slowly
It is extremely rare to have a bad reaction to light therapy, but everyone is different and it can happen.
Always begin by using your bulb on an inconspicuous area for a few seconds instead of the normal recommended treatment time. With each session, you can increase the use time until you have determined that no irritation, discoloration or other unusual effects have occurred.
Skin irritation is rare, but if it occurs, use of the bulb should be discontinued.
Skin discoloration is extremely rare. If you have a medium to dark skin tone and you are using an LED type bulb, there is a chance that the light could cause discoloration. When doing your patch tests and increasing session time, pay special attention to the inconspicuous area you’ve chosen. You should not see changes in skin color that do not go away within 30-60 minutes. If you do notice this sort of reaction, discontinue use of the bulb and return it.
Eye irritation can occur- sometimes even if you are wearing the appropriate eye protection! Remember that even if you have the proper eye protection, you should not stare into the bulb. Although it is rare, some individuals have done this and found out that they are extremely sensitive to bright light. Always limit exposure and gradually increase it over time (and avoid staring into the light) to make sure you will not have a rare negative reaction.
Your Medications Cause Photosensitivity
If you’re taking doxycycline, minocycline or any other medication that can cause light sensitivity, do not try to use light therapy or a near infrared sauna. A quick visit with your pharmacist should clear up the question of whether any medication you take causes photosensitivity, or sensitivity to light.
Your Lyme Disease Causes Photosensitivity
If your Lyme symptoms include sensitivity to light, intense light therapy is going to make you feel worse, not better.
You’ve Just Applied a Product that Reacts with Light
Many popular ingredients in skin care products interact with light and can cause irritation or even discoloration. Examples include retinol, vitamin C and lemon juice. Ingredients that react with light are often found in products intended for nighttime use- the idea being that you’d apply it at a time when you won’t be in the sun.
You can apply these types of products anytime after your light therapy or near infrared sauna treatment, but not before. And always make sure your skin is cleansed of any remaining product that was applied hours before (just to be safe).
You’ve Just Applied Sunscreen
If you’ve just applied sunscreen that isn’t zinc-based, it’s either going to interfere with the light penetrating your skin or the light is going to break the sunscreen down faster or both. Unless your sunscreen is made with zinc, it’s probably made with avobenzone or similar substances that penetrate your skin and do their job from under your skin’s surface until they’re broken down by heat.
Zinc-based sunscreens don’t penetrate the skin and stop working if they’re washed off, so as long as you remove them, they shouldn’t pose a problem.
You’re a Man Concerned about His Near-Term Fertility
Applying heat to the testicles raises their temperature and this can temporarily reduce a man’s fertility. This is true of any sort of heat, including near infrared bulbs of the heat-producing type or near infrared saunas.
Since LED-type bulbs do not produce heat, they would not have the same effect of decreasing a man’s fertility.
The Treatment Area Is Swollen
If the area you want to treat is freshly injured, swollen, and painful, you shouldn’t use any light therapy on it.
One of the things that makes swelling uncomfortable is all the blood rushing to the area. If you use light therapy on it, or if you use a heat therapy (like a sauna), it will bring even more blood to the area, which could make it hurt more.
Make sure you get any serious injury treated by a qualified physician. You can ask your doctor if and when it would be safe and advantageous to use light therapy or a near infrared sauna. Usually, if light therapy or sauna use is appropriate, your doctor would tell you to wait until the initial swelling subsides before attempting those therapies.
You Have Migraines Triggered by Light
If you have light-induced migraine headaches or optical migraines, you should not expose your eyes to the light or you may trigger a migraine.
You Have Seizures
Whether you have seizures from epilepsy, Lyme disease or some other cause, seizures can be triggered by bright light. Therefore, you should be sure not to expose your eyes to the intense, bright light of light therapy bulbs or to bulbs in a near infrared sauna.
You Have Bipolar Disorder
If you have bipolar disorder, there is a risk that intense, bright light could trigger mania. Some experts are beginning to believe that although bright light therapy can be beneficial for depression symptoms in those with bipolar disorder, in some cases it can also trigger mania. Therefore, it’s important to discuss the possible use of light therapy with your doctor before trying it.
You Are Pregnant
If you’re pregnant, you should not use light therapy on the abdominal area. Light therapy’s effects on pregnant women and their babies haven’t been studied. However, we do know that in general red light therapy and near infrared light therapy cause cells to grow and divide faster than normal. In an adult, this promotes healing and regeneration, but in a fetus it could have negative consequences.
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