Light beam that heals bed sores & ulcers

By Agency Published on Jul 17, 2018 12:37 PM IST

Light therapy is increasingly being used to treat medical conditions such as skin complaints and pain, and now British doctors are harnessing it to treat chronic wounds such as ulcers and bed sores.

Phototherapy, as it’s called, usually involves using a single wavelength of light that has been identified as having a particular property.

For example, blue light has been explored as a treatment for pain as it can stimulate the body’s production of nitric oxide which widens blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the area, and this in turn is thought to increase the supply of pain-relieving molecules.

Meanwhile ultraviolet light — the type of light that burns the skin and is also used in sunbeds — has been found in small and controlled amounts to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties — and has been tested as a way to treat skin conditions such as acne and eczema.

Now doctors at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust have combined three types of light — red, ultraviolet and infrared — to deliver a triple whammy to ulcers.

They have built a special lamp with 32 different bulbs, which emit infrared, red or ultraviolet light — together they are thought to speed up healing through different mechanisms.

In a recent trial, doctors found the therapy was effective in treating ulcers on the tips of the fingers caused by a condition called systemic sclerosis, where the immune system mistakenly attacks connective tissue and causes ulcers and sores on the fingers and toes.

But NHS doctors say it could also be used for other ulcers, including diabetic foot ulcers, and bed sores, which affect more than a million patients a year.

People with diabetes are at risk of ulcers or open wounds that don’t heal because of poor circulation, a complication of the condition.

Bed sores can affect anyone who remains in one position, such as those in hospital or who cannot move much due to illness, old age or frailty.

The constant pressure of the sheets or mattress can cut off blood flow to an area of skin and tissue, and it starts to break down.