Photo therapy for allergies. Quackery?
June 28, 2010 4:24 AM   Subscribe

Can someone with access to the medical research literature tell me if there is enough evidence to warrant taking the red light led photo therapy nasal devices for the relief of hayfever seriously? I suspect it is quackery but am curious if there is any credible research out there. Anecdotes abound but I'd like to hear about some scientific data.

sniffle sniffle.
posted by srboisvert to Health & Fitness (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can search PubMed. You'll be able to read abstracts even if you can't read the full text. This is often enough to get preliminary information about many treatments.

Since I have access to full text papers, I just searched PubMed for "red light led photo therapy nasal devices" and nothing came up, likewise for "red light led hayfever." "red light led allergies" returns some irrelevant papers. (Either there are no studies or the search terms are incorrect. Do you know of other terms to use.)
posted by OmieWise at 4:47 AM on June 28, 2010

This blog post discusses it at length (assuming that it's talking about the same thing) and addresses the methodology of what is, or at least was in 2008, apparently the single published trial of the therapy.

tl;dr: the trial was poor-quality in general. In particular, the red light is visible through the nose-flesh so it was obvious who was in the control group (as their diodes were disconnected). There is no other evidence of effectiveness for this therapy.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:48 AM on June 28, 2010

Best answer: Sometimes it's tough to wrangle the correct terms into pubmed. For instance, OmieWise is right about there being no articles that mention both red light LED and Hay Fever. The search that worked best for me was phototherapy rhinitis (allergic rhinitis is the medical term for hay fever). It seems that in the two years since that blog post, the literature has been relatively favorable regarding the procedure.

This, in Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head & Neck Surgery from a review team at UPitt SoM
Phototherapy with ultraviolet (UV) light is used for the treatment of immune-mediated dermatologic conditions such as psoriasis. The therapeutic mechanism of UV light is attributed to its immunosuppressive effects, including the reduction of antigen presentation by dendritic cells, inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokine synthesis and release, and induction of apoptosis in immune cells [62••]. One group in Hungary has studied the use of narrow-band UV light as intranasal therapy for allergic rhinitis. Early uncontrolled studies using a 308 nm UV-B laser [63] and UV-A light and psoralen [64] showed improvement in nasal symptom scores. A randomized, double-blind controlled trial using a combination of low-dose UV-B, low-dose UV-A, and visible light in patients with ragweed-induced allergic rhinitis resulted in decreased nasal symptom scores and reduced levels of eosinophils and IL-5 [65]. The researchers then found the combination phototherapy to be superior to fexofenadine in the reduction of rhinorrhea, nasal obstruction, and total symptom score [66]. The only side effect of intranasal phototherapy in these studies was dryness of the nasal mucosa. These investigators have developed a phototherapeutic device (Rhinolight; Rhinolight Ltd., Szeged, Hungary) for the intranasal delivery of combination of low-dose UV-B, low-dose UV-A, and visible light that is approved and marketed in Hungary [62••]

UV light induces DNA damage and, at high doses, is associated with carcinogenesis. A recent study of nasal cytology samples from patients undergoing intranasal phototherapy [67•] demonstrated UV-specific markers of photodamage 10 days after treatment to be similar to baseline. Another study [68] suggested markers of DNA damage found elevated immediately after phototherapy were not present within several days of treatment. Nevertheless, the long-term effect of phototherapy on nasal mucosa is unknown
The search yielded several studies that were newer than the review; I suggest you read through the abstracts-- just keep a critical eye for where the research is coming from.
posted by The White Hat at 5:36 AM on June 28, 2010

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