3 Surprising Uses for Smart Lighting in Healthcare February 01, 2017 00:00
Imagine a world where the devastating effects Alzheimer’s disease could be completely reversed simply by daily exposure to a flashing light.
Or where sufferers of depression or PTSD are cured by the deletion, manipulation, or fabrication of entire memories using just the power of light.
Although this world may sound too bizarre to be true, scientists are already closer than you think to making these treatments become a reality. And it’s all thanks to light!
While you may have to wait a decade or two until you see these treatments in hospitals though, here are 3 surprising ways that smart lighting is being used to help treat illnesses today.
Using light to combat neonatal jaundice
But when it comes to fighting physical disease, nothing is more indicative of the power of light than its use in treating neonatal jaundice.
Occurring in an estimated 50% and 80% of term and preterm infants respectively, neonatal jaundice is incredibly common. During pregnancy, a mother’s body is responsible for removing a substance called bilirubin from her child’s blood through the placenta. After the child is born though, sometimes his or her organs haven’t yet adapted and can’t remove all the bilirubin immediately.
Most cases tend to clear up on their own after a week or so but, in some cases, the bilirubin continues to build up. In the event of this continual buildup, the primary treatment method is phototherapy (this is where the light comes in).
Phototherapy involves exposing the baby’s skin to as much blue light of a specific frequency (460-490nm) as possible. This blue light helps to break down the bilirubin into components that are more easily processed by the liver or removed through bile and urine.
The lighting components of choice were at one time fluorescent or halogen lamps but due to the ease of spectrum designation, cost effectiveness, and superior bulb lifespan, LEDs are becoming more and more the go-to option.
Brightening up geriatric care units
Moving from babies to seniors, the senior assisted living sector is finding ways to benefit from the versatility of smart lighting as well.
In addition to the sunlight emulating spectrum of specially manufactured LEDS (which can have especially beneficial effects on agitation and depression in geriatric centers), many facilities are beginning to invest in 24-hour cycle smart lighting systems.
As you’ve no doubt heard already, lighting has a direct link to your body’s melatonin and cortisol production because of a certain receptor in your eyes called the intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (thankfully nicknamed ipRGCs).
When your body is exposed to too much or too little light throughout the day (common in most healthcare facilities), then your internal clock – also known as the circadian rhythm – can get knocked off schedule, resulting in sleep disturbances which can carry a whole host of mood disorders with them.
To combat these detrimental effects, some geriatric care centers are creating a dynamic lighting schedule that not only provides more light to stimulate the ipRGCs of the elderly, but also that change brighten and dim throughout the day to cater to a healthy circadian rhythm. The results are less sleep disturbances and happier patients.
The healing power of light
And last but not least is the utilization of LED light to, believe it or not, actually help heal wounds.
No doubt you’ve seen sci-fi films and shows (we’re looking at you Star Trek) where a ship member has a terrible looking gash that nowadays would take months to heal. But in this world, all it takes is the doctor waving what looks to be a flashlight over the injury and, presto, he’s instantly healed!
While we may not be to that point quite yet, it’s true that many health clinics are beginning to use LED therapy to help stimulate your body’s natural healing process. Researchers believe that both red and blue light therapies can help to speed up energy production as well as releasing nitric oxide, thereby speeding up the healing process.
Some dermatologists are even using it to treat skin irregularities like acne, wrinkles, and scars!
Let us know what you think!
Have you ever been treated with phototherapy? What other kinds of amazing treatments will we see ten, twenty, and fifty years from now? Let us know in the comment section below and don’t forget to head over to the Flux Smart product line!