"Light therapy" is spreading to hospitals, schools and restaurants: to treat patients, to improve concentration and to stimulate appetite. Light therapy uses visible rays of more than 4,000-lux illumination and projects them with different wavelengths depending on different conditions to be treated to improve physical strength and facilitate metabolism. The average length of a session differs depending on how strong the illumination is, but on average, rays are projected from 20-30 cm distances for 15-20 minutes. Traditionally, ultraviolet rays, infrared rays and radioactive rays have been widely used for treatment, but visible rays have only been known to play a supportive role in treating seasonal affective disorder and sleep disorders.
With the new focus on chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, alternative medicine and the spread of the healthy lifestyle, light therapy is being recognized as a way of treating complaints. The efficacy of light therapy is recognized in a wide range of fields including recovering regular biorhythms, soothing pain, strengthening the immune system, stabilizing mental conditions, alleviating Alzheimer's symptoms, lowering blood pressure and hypnogenesis.
Kim Jeong-soo, head of obesity and stress Clinic Vie, claims, "Exposing yourself to rays from the light box for one or two hours helps recover your biorhythm, which eventually helps treat not only affective disorders but also obesity and learning disorders." The Kyunghee University Medical Center uses light therapy to treat dietary disorders and arthritis due to studies showing the efficacy of light in promoting metabolism and treating inflammation. Shin Hyun-dae, a professor of Oriental Rehabilitation Medicine of the Kyunghee University Medical Center says visible rays are highly effective in reproducing skin cells and exposing patients with decubitus ulcers to a combination of visible rays with all kinds of wavelengths is one of the best ways to treat their condition.
Clinical tests show that exposure to light also has something to do with cancer incidence rates. Countries such in high latitudes and exposed to less sunlight have higher incidence rates of breast cancer or colon cancer than those that get more sunlight. "The Role of Vitamin D in Cancer Prevention," a paper published by Dr. Cedric Garland and Dr. Edward Gorham, says Ireland, the U.K. and Germany in 54 degrees, 52 degrees and 51 degrees latitude have 26.9, 25.7 and 29 breast cancer patients per 100,000 people while Mexico at 23 degrees latitude and Guatemala at 15 degrees have only 6.3 and 2.3 breast cancer patients per 100,000.
Light therapy is already an everyday affair in the U.K. and North European countries with long dark winters, unlike Korea where people are exposed to enough sun light. The light box is often seen in living places, on the streets or in shopping outlets rather than in hospitals. The light box comes in different forms, from small portable boxes to stoves or even umbrellas, hats or tables with light boxes attached. Feelux shows an example of living spaces with light boxes at the Lighting Museum in Yangju, Gyeonggi Province. Feelux says light therapy will continue to expand as people's interest in health and the Korean economy grow.
Doctors, however, are doubtful that light therapy will expand its application in hospitals, too. Kim of Clinic Vie says light therapy is in competition with anti-depressants in psychiatry and is still considered a supplementary tool in other medical fields.