Everything you need to know about using Vitamin D lamps to combat seasonal affective disorder

Santje09/ iStockVitamin D lamps are becoming more popular.
  • Experts advise against using sun lamps for vitamin D production – exposure to UV light increases your skin cancer risk and there are more effective, safer ways to get vitamin D.
  • Instead, take a vitamin D supplement that offers up to 2000 IUs per day.
  • Light therapy boxes that emit no harmful UV light can be useful for fighting seasonal affective disorder if their light reaches an intensity of 10,000 lux.
  • Different light therapy boxes that do utilise different types of UV light can be used under close medical supervision to treat severe eczema and psoriasis.

It’s a tempting idea to think we can just turn on a light switch and get all the vitamin D we need – but unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in real life.

“Vitamin D lamp” is just one name for a type of light. Other general names that are used interchangeably include “sun lamp” or “light therapy box,” which is where it can get confusing – because there are at least three separate types of sun lamps and light therapy boxes, and they all do different things.

Light therapy boxes can also help fight seasonal affective disorder – if you know what you need

While a light therapy box mimics outdoor light to help you battle the effects of seasonal affective disorder, it very importantly should emit little to no UV light, according to the Mayo Clinic.

You want to find a light therapy box that emits 10,000 lux of light– lower amounts won’t have the desired effect, according to Healthline.

Light therapy lampLumieLight therapy box doesn’t have the risk of cancer.

Also, because of the risk of certain side effects including severe headaches, it’s best to use light therapy boxes for SAD under the supervision of your doctor.

It also may not be a good option for you if you’re taking certain medications, or suffer from any conditions that make you especially sensitive to light, or suffer from bipolar disorder according to the Mayo Clinic.

Most experts don’t recommend using sun lamps to stimulate vitamin D production because of the risk of developing skin cancer

Your body can synthesise some vitamin D through UV exposure – which is also why many refer to it as “the sunshine vitamin.”

However, factors ranging from wearing clothes that cover you from head to toe to slathering on high-SPF sunscreen all lessen the amount of vitamin D your body can produce this way.

But experts still don’t recommend hopping into a “tanning bed” to increase vitamin D.

Tanning bedGetty Images/Donald MiralleA sun lamp can also be called a ‘tanning bed.’

Dr. JoAnn Manson clarified for INSIDER:

“We really do not recommend using sun lamps for vitamin D production. Yes, there will be vitamin D synthesis with unprotected skin. However, there’s a substantial increase in the risk of skin cancer with sun lamps and it’s not recommended, especially for young adults. That would not be the way to do it.”

If you’re looking to increase your vitamin D intake, Dr. Manson instead recommends taking a vitamin D supplement that offers up to 2000 IUs per day – it’s much safer and more effective than purposeful UV exposure.

Patients suffering from severe cases of eczema or psoriasis may find relief through light therapy boxes that specifically target their uncomfortable conditions using UV light – but only under the close supervision of their doctors, according to Health.

More research is needed to know for sure if vitamin D lamps truly help SAD

As of December 2018, the FDA does not approve or regulate light therapy boxes for SAD treatment in the US and there don’t appear to be any large scale studies about their effectiveness.

That being said, there is some anecdotal evidence that they work – and that they may not – and they are recommended by some physicians. If you find yourself looking for an option to combat SAD, talk to your doctor. They may be worth a shot.

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