Light Treatments: Effects of Infrared And Ultraviolet Rays on The Human Body

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Observing healthful living habits does much to prevent diseases. However, illnesses do occur, and for those which are not serious or do not involve risk to life, every household should be prepared to provide simple treatments. Other than medication by drugs, there are natural remedies for minor illnesses, such as light treatments.

The results of light treatments depend, to a large extent, on the human body’s natural physiological response. Radiant heat, visible light, radio waves, diathermy, X-rays, infrared rays, and ultraviolet rays are all forms of light treatments. They are similar in many respects except in their respective wavelengths. But in their effects on the human body, these light treatments may differ a great deal. Diathermy energy, for example, can heat the deep body tissues. Radio waves, if strong enough, can also heat the body. Both infrared rays and ultraviolet rays can heat the skin, although with effects quite different from each other.

There are different sources of infrared rays, and their comparative effectiveness is not difficult to determine. This is because the heating effect of such rays is immediately apparent to the individual being treated. The frequently used light treatments made up of powerful bulbs surrounded by reflectors shaped like a bowl or bucket are valuable mainly due to the infrared rays they emit.

The case is completely different with ultraviolet rays. The various sources of these rays emit comparatively few visible light rays while operating. At the time of treatment, the effects are not apparent to the patient; the tanning or reddening effect on the skin occurs more slowly. The abrasion that may occur after such a treatment (which may be likened to a sunburn) may be so severe as to cause harm, with the patient not realizing at once that something bad is happening. In ultraviolet light treatments, the eyes are particularly susceptible to any possible damage that may occur.

Vitamin D forms in the skin when ultraviolet rays fall upon it. We know that vitamin D is supplied by sunlight through direct exposure of the skin. One of the most beneficial effects of ultraviolet rays on the human body is the prevention of infection through the inhibition of the growth or action of microorganisms. Individuals suffering from such skin diseases as psoriasis and vitiligo (or leukoderma) may find some relief in controlled sunbaths.

If it isn’t possible to obtain the desired effects from sunbaths, other reliable forms of light treatments may be used. It is important to note, however, that the best results can be obtained with safety, and this is possible only through the close supervision of a physician or a physical therapist.


1. “Infrared light therapy explained,” on The Infrared Sauna Reference (online).

2. “Ultraviolet Radiation” by Brien Sparling, on NAS (online).

3. “Sunlight and Skin Damage,” on The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library.

4. “Ultraviolet,” on Wikipedia.


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