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Seasonal affective disorder treatment: Choosing a light therapy box
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A light therapy box is a small, portable device that contains fluorescent bulbs or tubes and is used mainly in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression. You can purchase a light box over-the-counter, without a prescription.

Commercial outlets offer a wide variety of light boxes and other light devices for seasonal affective disorder treatment. You can buy light boxes on the Internet and at some drugstores and hardware stores. But not all of these products are safe or effective for seasonal affective disorder treatment, so check with your doctor before buying one. To avoid complications, use light boxes only under your doctor's guidance.

Features to look for in a light therapy box

Here are some considerations when buying a light therapy box for seasonal affective disorder treatment:

  • Intensity. Look for a light box that allows you the right intensity of light at a comfortable seating distance. Some light boxes offer 10,000 lux only when you're within a few inches of the box, while others can reach a distance of nearly two feet.
  • Minimal UV exposure. Some light boxes use full-spectrum light bulbs that give off ultraviolet (UV) light, which can cause eye and skin damage. Look for devices that produce as little UV light as possible at high intensity or that carefully shield the UV rays they produce.
  • Light direction. Light should come from above your line of sight, not at it or below it. Make sure the light box you want can be positioned appropriately.
  • Blue light. Exposure to the blue light spectrum should be minimal because it may cause vision problems, such as glare or macular degeneration.
  • Cost. Prices vary greatly, from about $200 to $500. Health insurance plans don't always cover the cost of light therapy boxes. Check with your insurance company to see if your benefits will cover the cost.
  • Style. Some light boxes look like upright lamps, while others are small and rectangular. You can even purchase a light therapy device attached to a visor, which would allow you to receive light therapy while remaining active. However, keep in mind that scientific evidence about the effectiveness of light visors is lacking.
  • Convenience. Some light boxes are bigger than others, which can make them less portable. Find one that you can move easily and that fits the desired location in your home or office.

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Depression
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  • October 04, 2006

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