New Light-Based Therapy Could Better Treat Ulcers
Doctors could soon start using light therapy to help treat pressure ulcers.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the 2.5 million people diagnosed with pressure ulcers each year face a slew of challenges in their treatment. On the one hand, as the AHRQ noted, many healthcare facilities are facing issues with finding the right assessment tools and management options for this serious health concern. Even without those issues, Direct Health Services explained that science behind ulcers is complicated, involving a number of bodily systems from the skin and muscles to the circulatory system. As a result, Healthline explained that many ulcers end with surgical excision.
Now, though, there may be a new solution that’s decidedly simpler A researcher from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee has found a quick and easy way to treat ulcers: with light.
A bright new light
The light-based therapy is the brainchild of Janis Eells, a professor in the University’s College of Health Sciences. Over the last several months, Eells and her colleagues in the biomedical department have been treating patients with spinal cord injuries with far-red light. AskNature explained that this form of red light exists on the very far end of the spectrum, and is all but invisible to the human eye. However, animals have used it for a number of novel purposes. For one, deep-sea fish like the loosejaw dragonfish uses far-red light to see in the deep, dark depths. Meanwhile, a study in the journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta found that plants use far-red light to detect and grow away from one another.
For her series of studies, Eells used far-red light for similar purposes. In a 2014 interview with the Wisconsin Academy magazine, she said that far-red light is effective at communicating to the cells inside a wound.
“Chronic wounds are ‘stuck’ in the inflammatory phase of healing,” she said. “NIR (near-infrared, like far-red) light removes that obstacle. If you can tone down the inflammation in a non-healing wound, like a pressure ulcer, you speed the healing.”
Eells isn’t alone in applying light to the medical field, and a number of other therapies involve the use of varying forms and degrees of light exposure. For instance, the Mayo Clinic said light has been used for years as an effective acne management therapy. Meanwhile, the Canadian Association of Aesthetic Medicine said that light has even been widely used in many cosmetic surgeries, including wrinkle removal, scar reduction and addressing certain vascular conditions.
Eells said that in the trials she’s run, far-red light has been able to heal wounds up to 2.5 times faster than most standard therapies. It’s worth noting, though, that the FDA has yet to approve the far-red light approach for wounds, only various sprains and bruises. However, Eells said that she’s already comfortable enough to try it out on her own mother, who developed a dime-sized sore during extended bed rest. Spurred on by results with the patients and her mother, Eells is now making attempts to get full FDA approval and eventually release a far-red device for market use.
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