Light Therapy for Eczema and Psoriasis

Eczema and psoriasis are some of the most common skin conditions, with over 30 million Americans suffering from eczema and 8 million with some form of psoriasis. [1,2]

In this article, we’ll explain the emerging research around light therapy as a potential treatment for psoriasis, eczema, and other common skin conditions.

Eczema and Psoriasis Treatment Is Lacking

Eczema refers to a variety of skin-related conditions, while psoriasis is actually a separate and complex autoimmune disease. They are often grouped together because both cause inflamed, itchy skin that’s difficult to treat. There are no cures for either eczema or psoriasis, so as with most chronic conditions, management of symptoms is central to treatment.

Many people use ointments and creams, and/or prescription drugs and anti-allergy medications. These have limited effectiveness and often come with unwanted risks and side effects. Now, recent research is showing that red light therapy can help treat and heal psoriasis and eczema.

What Is Light Therapy?

Light therapy (also known as LED therapy or phototherapy) is a simple, noninvasive treatment for many skin conditions. Check out What Is Light Therapy for a full breakdown.

A light therapy device isolates therapeutic wavelengths of light and shines them on the body and cells. For eczema and psoriasis, emerging research is showing that wavelengths of red and blue light can both have a significant therapeutic effect. [3] Light treatments have also been shown to reduce inflammation and stimulate skin rejuvenation and healing in clinical trials. [1,2,4]

Red Light Therapy for Eczema?

In one of the initial human trials analyzing red light treatment and eczema, researchers followed 81 patients for nearly a year, measuring how symptoms progressed with regular light treatments. The researchers evaluated eczema rashes before, during, and after patients received red light therapy treatments.

Participants received just a single, two-minute red light therapy session per week. Even with such short treatments, they saw considerable improvements in common eczema symptoms, including reductions in bumps (follicular keratosis), flaking skin (pityriasis), redness (erythema), and pimples (papules).

The research team also evaluated itchiness levels before, during, and after red light therapy. Patients picked their skin less and had fewer leathery patches (lichenification) when treated with red light therapy. The study also noted there were “no side effects during or after” the red light treatments, in line with hundreds of other trials and studies on red light therapy for skin and health.

Researchers concluded that they “consider that light therapy may become the new therapy of choice” for common eczema treatment. [4]

Other Studies on Red Light Therapy and Eczema

Numerous laboratory studies also show red light therapy to be beneficial for eczema treatment when used in conjunction with other treatments. Everything from sophisticated immunosuppressive drugs to simple warm water baths have been tested in combination with light treatments, with very encouraging results.

A 2013 study examined the benefits of light therapy along with an immunosuppressive drug. Researchers recorded many benefits for eczema treatment, including:

  • Significantly reduced severity of skin lesions
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Restored skin barrier [5]

A similar eczema study conducted by the same principal researcher examined the effects of red light combined with a simple hot water bath. Red light therapy plus a hot bath reduced inflammation, reduced the development of skin lesions, and suppressed allergic reactions. [6]

A 2017 study used SCORAD, a clinical tool that assesses the severity of eczema. Researchers found that light therapy reduced skin thickness, allergy-related cells, and dead cell buildup in the epidermis. [7]

More research on red light treatments and eczema is needed and further trials are currently underway. The existing base of research, though, is very positive and shows that natural red light therapy may reduce itchiness and inflammation and improve skin lesions for people with eczema.

Light Therapy for Psoriasis?

Light therapy has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin and cells that improves wound healing. [8,9,10] Initial trials on light therapy and psoriasis are showing that blue light and red light can both improve healing outcomes and reduce symptoms like itching and flaking. [3,11,12]

One study treated patients with chronic psoriasis, which in most cases had proven resistant to conventional treatments. Researchers treated participants with red light therapy for a four to five week period with follow-ups, and found significant improvements in psoriasis symptoms:

  • Psoriasis Cleared: Patients had a 60% to 100% clearance rate with recalcitrant psoriasis.
  • Reduced Inflammation: Red light therapy reduced the skin inflammation of psoriasis patients.
  • Patient Satisfaction: Researchers concluded that “satisfaction was universally very high” among the psoriasis patients treated with red light. [11]

Another double-blind, randomized study assessed 20 patients with psoriasis. By monitoring two psoriatic plaques on each patient, one treated and one untreated, researchers were able to determine that red light therapy improved psoriasis by reducing redness, hardening, and scaling of the skin. [12]

Conclusion: Light Therapy Shows Promise for Psoriasis and Eczema

There are no existing cures for eczema or psoriasis, and the current treatment landscape gives patients limited options. Emerging research on light therapy and skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema shows promise. Initial trials and studies demonstrate that light therapy can be an effective option for eczema and psoriasis treatment.

Sources and References:

[1] National Eczema Association

[2] National Psoriasis Foundation

[3] Kleinpenning MM, Otero ME, van Erp PE, Gerritsen MJ, van de Kerkhof PC. Efficacy of blue light vs. red light in the treatment of psoriasis: a double-blind, randomized comparative study. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2012 Feb; 26(2): 219-25.

[4] Morita H, Kohno J. et al. Clinical Application of GaAlAs 830 nm Diode Laser for Atopic Dermatitis. Laser Therapy. 1993 vol 5.

[5] Kim CH, Cheong KA, Lee AY. 850nm light-emitting-diode phototherapy plus low-dose tacrolimus (FK-506) as combination therapy in the treatment of Dermatophagoides farinae-induced atopic dermatitis-like skin lesions in NC/Nga mice. Journal of Dermatological Science. 2013 Nov.

[6] Kim CH, Cheong KA, et al. Effects of low-dose light-emitting-diode therapy in combination with water bath for atopic dermatitis in NC/Nga mice. Photodermatology Photoimmunology & Photomedicine. 2016 Jan.

[7] Jekal SJ, Park MS, et al. The Combined Effects of Curcumin Administration and 630 nm LED Phototherapy against DNCB-induced Atopic Dermatitis-like Skin Lesions in BALB/c Mice. Korean Journal of Clinical Laboratory Science. 2017 June.

[8] Silveira PC, Ferreira KB, et al. Effect of Low-Power Laser (LPL) and Light-Emitting Diode (LED) on Inflammatory Response in Burn Wound Healing. Inflammation. 2016 Aug.

[9] Gál P, Stausholm MB, et al. Should open excisions and sutured incisions be treated differently? A review and meta-analysis of animal wound models following low-level laser therapy. Lasers in Medical Science. 2018 Aug.

[10] de Oliveira RA, Fernandes GA, et al. The effects of LED emissions on sternotomy incision repair after myocardial revascularization: a randomized double-blind study with follow-up. Lasers in Medical Science. 2014 May.

[11] Ablon G. Combination 830-nm and 633-nm light-emitting diode phototherapy shows promise in the treatment of recalcitrant psoriasis: preliminary findings. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. 2010 Feb.

Kleinpenning MM, Otero ME, et al. Efficacy of blue light vs. red light in the treatment of psoriasis: a double-blind, randomized comparative study. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. 2012 Feb.

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