Wearable Light Therapy Device for Psoriasis & Skin Lesions
By Jordan V. Wang, MD, MBE
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that affects about 125 million people worldwide. Its notoriously thick, red, and scaly lesions can be debilitating and irritating, leading to both physical and psychological effects. Psoriasis is characterized by an accelerated division of skin cells paired with painful inflammation. Since the condition is incurable, skin lesions often recur even with treatment.
Recently, there has been new technology created for the treatment of psoriasis, which has been pioneered by Philips. It has been branded, BlueControl. This is a new wearable light therapy device that patients can use in the convenience of their own home. Treatment sessions last for 30 minutes each day to an area. The rechargeable, battery-powered device delivers certain wavelengths of blue light to the skin through the use of specialized LED’s. It can easily be worn on the arms and legs, including elbows and knees, using adjustable straps. The device is free from both UV radiation and chemical substances.
Philips recently gained FDA approval for the device to be used in the treatment of mild psoriasis in July of 2017. However, the device had already been approved in Europe for a few years. Since 2014, Philips has launched this product in several European countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom.
The device works by delivering selected wavelengths of light to the skin lesions of psoriasis. This special light then acts by slowing down the increased production of skin cells and decreasing the inflammation seen in thick plaques of psoriasis. To the naked eye, this leads to less redness and scaling of skin lesions. Two of the original clinical studies in Germany with over 80 patients showed that this device was safe, comfortable, and improves mild psoriasis.
This device allows for a drug-free approach in the treatment of psoriasis. For those who are already undergoing light therapy for mild psoriasis, it may offer more convenience by removing the need to travel to a clinic for frequent sessions. The device can also be used in combination with topical medications, including steroids. The product will eventually be available via prescription, and it is the first of its kind designed for home use. In consultation with a dermatologist, you can determine if this product is meant for you and if it can offer any benefit or relief.
Look out for the commercial launch of this device by early 2018. You can always ask your dermatologist for more information as additional reports get released.
During the last 15 years, the number of available treatment options for psoriasis has greatly increased and many people get dramatic clearance with biologic agents. However, systemic treatments are not without side effects and patients with more limited psoriasis may not want associated risks. Light therapy has been used to treat psoriasis since ancient Egyptian times. Until now, light therapy required the patient to live in a sunny area or the patient had to go to specialized centers, where they could be treated in a device similar to a tanning booth for whole body treatment or a laser could be used to limited areas. Topical medications can also be prescribed, but long term use can result in skin thinning and some people don’t like the feel of creams or ointments.
Philips’ Blue Control offers people with psoriasis a new therapy. I think this will be a welcome additional option for the right individuals. Correct patients will need to be selected, as only certain body parts, such as arms and legs, will be amenable to treatment and patients will have to have limited areas of involvement. Side effects are likely to be minimal, although there is a small risk of a sunburn type reaction or perhaps of skin cancer with long term use (years in the same area).
In the future, the same technology could be used to treat limited areas of eczema or could be used for photodynamic therapy (a treatment that combines a medication, which makes a skin area sensitive to specific wavelengths, and light) to treat pre-cancers or other skin disease. Perhaps uses could even be expanded to treatment of seasonal depression or to fields like agriculture (to help crops grow). Now that this technology has made it to the market it will be exciting to see how it is used.