Phototherapy, also known as light therapy, is used to help with everything from skin conditions to painful joints.
For years these treatments were only available in clinics, but the technology has now been reduced to smaller devices that can be used at home without a prescription or available online.
Pat Hagan asked experts to review some of the devices. We then assessed them.
POCKET LAMP TO TREAT ACNE
Neutrogena Visible clear light Therapy Spot Treatment, £ 19.99, boots.com
Neutrogena visible clear light therapy Spot treatment, £ 19.99, boots.com
Claim: This pen-shaped gadget has a lamp at one end. What it emits consists of red and blue light – the manufacturer says that blue light destroys acne-causing bacteria in and around the site, while red light penetrates the skin to dampen inflammation. You hold the pen on batteries for two consecutive minutes, three times a day, directly against the stain.
EXPERTLY VERDICT: "This is probably of some benefit for mild acne or occasional spots," says Dr. Anshoo Sahota, a consultant dermatologist at The Shard Clinic in London. "The bacteria that cause acne are sensitive to certain wavelengths of light – including red and blue. The light causes the release of destructive molecules, called free radicals, that kill the bacteria. It would not be suitable for large areas because it would take too long to handle it. & # 39;
LAMP FOR ARTHRITIS PAIN
Mini lamp Derma Red, £ 60, carelamps.com
Derma Red mini lamp, £ 60 carelamps.com
Claim: A mini-lamp, the size and shape of a light bulb for household use that the maker says can help with a wide range of conditions, including joint pain and osteoarthritis. It has 12 LEDs that emit red light that is said to ease joint or muscle pain; the maker claims that the wavelengths of light penetrate deeper into body tissue than other wavelengths. It is designed to be used regularly directly in the area of discomfort to control pain.
EXPERTLY VERDICT: & # 39; This can provide some relief, just by slightly warming the joint, as heat relieves pain by widening blood vessels and improving blood flow, and relaxing the muscles in the potentially tense area & # 39; , says Adam Ajis, a foot and ankle surgeon consultant at the private BMI Goring Hall Hospital in West Sussex. "But it's not going to have an anti-inflammatory effect, such as ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory drugs. It is probably no better than Tiger Balm, which you rub on the joint, to give a warming feeling – but this is a lot more expensive. & # 39;
BASEBALL FOR HAIR LOSS
Lasercap, £ 645, lasercaps.co.uk
Lasercap, £ 645, lasercaps.co.uk
Claim: This looks like a normal baseball cap, but dozens of small lights are sewn on the inside. These generate low-level laser light – which the maker says is harmless to the skin but can penetrate into the scalp where they stimulate blood flow to the hair roots (follicles). This increased blood flow is said to promote hair growth and slow the speed at which the hair is shed. The advice is to wear it for 30 minutes, three times a week.
EXPERTLY VERDICT: "This generates light of the correct wavelength to penetrate the skin and reach the follicles," says Rali Bozhinova, a trichologist (hair specialist) at the London Belgravia Center. "The main cause of hair loss is a too high content of the hormone dihydrotestosterone, but improved blood flow can cause new hair to grow and last longer.
"But these devices are not a magical remedy for hair loss and are expensive. We offer them as a booster for patients who are already receiving prescription drugs for hair loss, such as finasteride, but they are not suitable as first-line treatment. & # 39;
LASER TO TREAT NAIL FUNGUS
Med-Fit rechargeable laser device, £ 88.99, tensmachineuk.com
Med-Fit rechargeable laser device, £ 88.99 tensmachineuk.com
Claim: This device clicks on the nail and uses laser light to destroy the fungus – the manufacturer recommends that the battery-operated gadget is used for seven minutes a day for up to four weeks.
EXPERTLY VERDICT: "It is very unlikely that this light works," says Dr. Sahota. "Fungal infections are difficult to shift; GPs often prescribe anti-fungal tablets that are taken daily for up to six months. Much more powerful lasers have been used to treat nail fungi in clinics and they only worked about 10 to 20 percent of the time. The light output of this will be a lot lower, so it is probably even less effective. & # 39;
LED MASK TO ERASE RINSING
RosaLi g ht phototherapy mask, £ 64, rosalight.com
RosaLight phototherapy mask, £ 64, rosalight.com
Claim: The inside of this mask, which covers the entire face, is covered with 150 LED & # 39; s that stimulate the self-healing capacities of your skin cells & # 39 ;, reduce facial inflammation and reduce the level of demodex mites on the skin – these mites are associated with rosacea, a skin condition that causes flushing and redness in the face. The mask, from a Swiss company, must be used for a maximum of 20 minutes, at least three times a week and the maker says that improvements must be seen within two weeks.
EXPERTLY VERDICT: "The red light in this device is known to have anti-inflammatory effects," says Dr. Sahota. "But it is unlikely that you can kill the mites in the skin and its impact on severe rosacea – where the inflammation becomes so intense that the skin can thicken and swell, usually around the nose – is probably limited. It can help in mild cases, but it is not a cure and if you stop using it the problem will return. & # 39;
SMALL BALLS TO DRY UP A RUNNY NOSE
Bionase Allergy Reliever, £ 49.94, healthcare4all.co.uk
Bionase allergy reliever, £ 49.94 healthcare4all.co.uk
Claim: This device has two small LED lights that are inserted into the nostrils and connected to a portable controller with wires.
When switched on, they emit a visible red light that the maker says can dampen inflammation and relieve symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, headache and watery eyes over a period of weeks. It is intended to be used three times a day – four to five minutes at a time – until the symptoms subside.
EXPERTLY VERDICT: Professor Adam Fox, an allergist consultant at Guy & # 39; s and St Thomas’s Hospital in London, says the nose swap is probably not worth the money. "There is not enough strong evidence to recommend it to patients and the devices are not recommended by current clinical guidelines," he says.
HAND HERO & # 39; SHAVER & # 39; TO ZIP COLD SORES
Virulite Invisible Light Treatment, £ 99.99, amazon.co.uk
Virulite invisible light treatment, £ 99.99 amazon.co.uk
Claim: Approximately the size and shape of an electric shaver, this is stopped for three consecutive minutes, twice a day for two days. It emits an invisible laser light (such as a TV remote control) and has a built-in timer when the application time of three minutes is over. The manufacturer claims it improves the local immune response and halves the painful healing time.
A study by the maker showed that Virulite cold sores healed in an average of 4.3 days, compared to 8.1 days for aciclovir cream, one of the most important drug treatments, the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dermatology reported in 2001.
EXPERTLY VERDICT: "Although mild cases of cold sores may not require treatment, generally all treatments work best when you start them as soon as possible," says Dr. Anita Amin, a dermatologist at BMI Goring Hall Hospital in West Sussex.
"Virulite is a proven effective way to get rid of cold sores quickly and is safe and easy to use."
LIGHT BOX FOR WINTER BLUES
Vitamin L SAD light, £ 75, lumie.com
Vitamin L SAD light, £ 75 lumie.com
Claim: A light box says to reduce seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression that affects people at certain times of the year, especially in the winter.
It is thought that less exposure to sunlight in shorter winter days stops part of the brain – the hypothalamus – from producing the feel-good hormone serotonin, resulting in a bad mood. This light box is said to simulate the effects of sunshine and increase the serotonin level. The maker says that this can make a big difference to symptoms such as fatigue, overeating and a lack of energy and motivation.
To use it, you sit within a few meters, usually on one side, so that light penetrates the eyes and reaches the brain without causing "glare," for about 30 minutes a day in the dark months.
EXPERTLY VERDICT: "Light boxes are very effective for winter blues if they have the right strength," says Dr. Olga Runcie, consultant psychologist at BMI The Albyn Hospital in Aberdeen.
"They must be at least 10,000 lux – a measure of how luminescent the light is. If they are less, they may not have the desired effect because they are not strong enough. They are not yet recommended by NICE, but we use light boxes a lot in clinical practice. & # 39;
Good adult: how health improves with age
This week: Hangovers
The next morning the headache becomes less as we get older. From throbbing heads to nausea and exhaustion, men and women suffer fewer hangovers and fewer symptoms with age. This is the conclusion of a survey of more than 50,000 Danes aged 18-94.
They were asked how much alcohol they drank, how often and detailed questions about how they felt afterwards. Young people under the age of 30 were nearly seven times as likely to have a serious hangover after five or more drinks than people aged 60 and over, the 2013 study found.
The researchers at the University of Southern Denmark said that older drinkers may have built up tolerance or found ways to prevent or treat one, from consuming a lot of water to 'folk remedies' such as aspirin and Bloody Mary's. .
In the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the researchers said that, although it is generally believed that males get worse with age, theirs is the first good study.
"This article addresses an important gap in the literature on alcohol research," they wrote.
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