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Light Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

Light Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurodegenerative disease that disrupts how the brain communicates with the rest of the body10. Nearly 1 million people are struggling with MS in the United States today10. New research on Multiple Sclerosis treatment suggests that Light Therapy has the potential to decrease the severity of the disease.

Normally, the brain communicates with the body through nerve cells that are surrounded by a protein and fat structure called the myelin sheath10,6,4. MS causes the immune system to attack the myelin sheath around nerves in the brain and spinal cord10,6,4. In addition to losing their protection, nerves suffer damage from chronic inflammation10,6,4. As a result, MS causes the brain and body to lose their ability to communicate, causing debilitating symptoms10,6,4.

Some of the common symptoms of this disease include:

  • Numbness or weakness, usually in the legs3,6;
  • An electric shock sensation after certain neck movements3,6;
  • Tremor and lack of coordination3,6;
  • Tingling and pain in certain parts of the body3,6;
  • Vision issues, including partial or complete loss of vision, or double vision and blurry vision3,6;
  • Slurred speech3,6.

Usually, people with MS will experience symptoms in episodes - sometimes symptoms feel worse and sometimes they feel improved or completely gone. Remission periods, where MS patients do not experience symptoms, may last for months and sometimes even years before symptoms come back3,6,10. MS varies in severity between people and over time - some experience a mild, persistent form of the disease while others experience symptoms in episodes that progress and get worse over time3,6,10. Because of the broad range of symptoms and ways that the disease presents itself, MS can be very difficult to treat.

Available Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis

MS treatment options are generally focused on speeding recovery from the onset of symptoms, slowing or managing the MS symptoms. There is no treatment that can entirely cure this disease.

Some of the treatments for MS include corticosteroids, a class of drugs that target nerve inflammation5,2. Another treatment is plasma exchange, where MS patients have part of their blood plasma removed (the liquid part of the blood that transfers cells and proteins in the body), which is then stirred with proteins and inserted back in the body5,11.

Most known treatments may also cause unwanted side effects. For instance,  corticosteroids can cause insomnia, high blood pressure, or mood swings5.

However, research is ongoing to find new and better ways of treatments. Some of the MS-orientated research suggests that Light Therapy shows the potential to slow the progression of the disease and treat its symptoms4.

Evidence: Light Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Scientific evidence suggests that Light Therapy may be an effective treatment strategy for MS4,1. Light Therapy scientists have applied research on animal models of multiple sclerosis to investigate the effects of this technology.

In one study from 2015, mice received Light Therapy sessions for 7 days4. A week after the last treatment, the researchers discovered that Light Therapy treatment mitigated the severity of the disease compared to placebo treatments4.

" Our data indicate that photobiomodulation may be an effective treatment that not only targets the immune response, but also offers the neuroprotection lacking with current treatment strategies," notes study author Jeri-Anne Lyons in the 2015 paper4.

In another 2015 study, researchers were able to confirm the positive effects of Light Therapy in another study on mice. Similar results were observed as in Lyon's research, with results showing that Light Therapy can delay the onset of MS, reducing inflammation in the central nervous system1.

Aside from alleviating inflammation, some of the other qualities that make Light Therapy a potential MS treatment include the technology's ability to reduce stiffness in the muscles and regenerate cells and tissues7,9. Light Therapy has the potential to alleviate symptoms while treating the disease at the cellular level1,4, offering an effective approach to battling MS.

With promising results from animal studies and small human trials, researchers are already designing the first clinical trials with MS patients to understand how Light Therapy can help treat the disease in humans8. With well-designed studies, Light therapy may become a critical tool to fight debilitating inflammatory diseases that lack effective treatments like MS8.

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