Light therapy controls hay fever, researchers say

Shining a combination of ultraviolet (UV) A and B and visible light into the nasal cavities suppresses the itchiness and runny nose caused by allergic rhinitis, according to European researchers.

Lead investigator Dr. Andrea I. Koreck told Reuters Health that “the treatment was tolerated well by our patients; the results were good and we have also demonstrated its mechanism of action.”

In the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Koreck, of the University of Szeged, Hungary, and colleagues note that phototherapy has been useful in the treatment of atopic dermatitis, which as several features in common with allergic rhinitis.

In addition, lab studies showed that the UV combination light induced killed off overactive immune cells and inflammatory cells.

To see if it could help patients, the researchers tried it in 49 people with ragweed-induced hay fever during the ragweed season. All had not been helped much with standard therapy.

The patients were randomly assigned to treatment with increasing doses of a combination of UV-B (5 percent), UV-A (25 percent) and visible light (70 percent), or to a control group who were treated with only low-intensity visible light. Each nasal cavity was illuminated three times a week for 3 weeks.

The active treatment led to a significant improvement in clinical symptoms of sneezing, nasal discharge and nasal itching. There were no improvements in the control group.

In addition, nasal washings from the combination-light group showed a significant reduction in markers of inflammation.

“Phototherapy represents an efficient therapeutic modality for the treatment of patients with allergic rhinitis,” the researchers conclude.

“An advantage is that (light therapy) is a local treatment without systemic effects,” Koreck added, “so it might be applicable in pregnant women or patients who would not like or are not able to take drugs.”

SOURCE: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, March 2005.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 22, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD