Red & Infrared Light Therapy for Psoriasis: What Is It and Does It Work?

What is Psoriasis?

Kim Kardashian recently brought attention to the condition after posting a number of selfie’s on her Instagram account revealing the extent of her psoriasis which was first diagnosed in a 2011 episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. But what exactly is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that involves a rapid turnover of skin cells. This buildup of skin cells causes scaling on the skin’s surface and the formation of scaly, itchy, dry patches.

Typically, skin cells grow deep in the skin and slowly rise to the surface. Eventually, they fall off. The typical life cycle of a skin cell is one month. In people with psoriasis, this production process may occur in just a few days. Because of this, skin cells don’t have time to fall off. This rapid overproduction leads to the buildup of skin cells.

People with psoriasis often find rough areas of painful irritation and silvery scales called plaques on various parts of their bodies. Inflammation and redness around the scales is fairly common. Typical psoriatic scales are whitish-silver and develop in thick, red patches. Sometimes, these patches will crack and bleed.

Scales typically develop on joints, such elbows and knees. They may develop anywhere on the body, including the:

  • hands
  • feet
  • neck
  • scalp
  • face

Less common types of psoriasis affect the nails, the mouth, and the area around genitals.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), around 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis. It’s commonly associated with several other conditions, including:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • heart disease
  • psoriatic arthritis

 

What Causes Psoriasis?

Doctors are unclear as to what causes psoriasis. However, thanks to decades of research, they have a general idea of two key factors: genetics and the immune system.

Immune System

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition. Autoimmune conditions are the result of the body attacking itself. In the case of psoriasis, white blood cells known as T cells mistakenly attack the skin cells.

In a typical body, white blood cells are deployed to attack and destroy invading bacteria and fight infections. This mistaken attack causes the skin cell production process to go into overdrive. The sped-up skin cell production causes new skin cells to develop too quickly. They are pushed to the skin’s surface, where they pile up.

This results in the plaques that are most commonly associated with psoriasis. The attacks on the skin cells also cause red, inflamed areas of skin to develop.

Genetics

Some people inherit genes that make them more likely to develop psoriasis. If you have an immediate family member with the skin condition, your risk for developing psoriasis is higher. However, the percentage of people who have psoriasis and a genetic predisposition is small. Approximately 2 to 3 percent of people with the gene develop the condition, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.

While there is no cure for this autoimmune disease, it can be put into remission and there are treatments available that can help ease, and or eliminate your psoriasis symptoms. These include home remedies to calm the skin, topical and oral medications, and light therapy.

Keep reading to learn more about Red Light Therapy for psoriasis, including how it works and if it might be right for you.

What is Light Therapy?

Red and Infrared Light Therapy is a form of Low-Level Light Therapy (LLLT) that uses light emitting diodes (LED) to treat conditions from acne to persistent wounds. Light therapy, is actually one of the oldest known psoriasis treatments. In fact, sunlight was one of the first treatments used to help to ease the symptoms of the condition. Now, there is a new type of light therapy that is proving beneficial for psoriasis treatment.

Light Therapy for Psoriasis

Numerous studies have proven Red and Infrared Light Therapy to be a highly effective treatment for psoriasis. In a recent study patients used a combination of near infrared light (830nm) and red light (633 nm) over a period of 4 to 5 weeks, with two 20-minute sessions every 48 hours, clearance rates during the follow up period were 60 to 100 percent. All of the participants were happy with the therapy and the results.

Kim Kardashian reported experiencing similar results after first trying Red Light Therapy, calling the device her “new best friend” in a photo she posted on Instagram. In November 2017, the star had told PEOPLE that she was “using this light [therapy] and my psoriasis is like 60 percent gone.”

An additional study concludes: “Inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis and acne can also be managed. The noninvasive nature and almost complete absence of side effects encourage further testing in dermatology.”

A 2011 study in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology examined the effects of Red Light versus Blue Light Therapy for individuals with psoriasis. Participants had high-dose treatments three times per week for four consecutive weeks while applying a 10 percent salicylic acid solution to plaques.

What were the results? Both the Red and Blue Light Therapies were effective in treating psoriasis. The difference between the two wasn’t significant for scaling and hardening of the skin, however, the Blue Light Therapy did come ahead when treating erythema, or reddened skin.

While research continues on this relatively new treatment modality involving the use of red and infrared light therapies for psoriasis, each additional study confirms that the treatments are effective and offer hope of a drug-free option for sufferers of this chronic disease.

In a hospital setting, when Red Light Therapy is combined with certain medication, it may be referred to as photodynamic therapy.

That said, you do not need to see a doctor to experience Red Light Therapy as there are various consumer products on the market aimed at cosmetic applications including the Joovv Full-Body Red and Infrared Light Therapy Device for convenient, powerful in-home use. If you prefer to try the technology before you purchase we offer these treatments at PLEIJ Salon+Spa as individual sessions, or a series of 10 treatments.

Phototherapy is endorsed by the National Psoriasis Foundation. According to the foundation’s website, “the key to success with light therapy is consistency.”

What is Red Light Therapy Used for Today?

Through grants and clinical trials in the years since the initial research, Red Light Therapy has proven effective for some medical conditions, including:

 

Risks and Considerations

Red Light Therapy isn’t associated with any major risks. Still, you may want to speak with your doctor if you’re taking medications that increase your skin’s photosensitivity.

There are several other types of light therapies that may help with psoriasis. Consider also asking your doctor about the following therapies:

  • ultraviolet light B (UVB)
  • natural sunlight
  • psoralen and ultraviolet light A (PUVA)
  • laser treatments

Your doctor may also have suggestions for how to combine oral or topical medications with light therapy, as well as what lifestyle changes will help you avoid psoriasis triggers.

Additional Recommendations to Treat Psoriasis

A healthy diet, avoiding both acidic and inflammatory foods as well as alcohol, minimizing stress, supplementing with Vitamin D3 and Magnesium, reducing your toxin burden, and maintaining a healthy body weight all help to manage psoriasis symptoms.

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