Jaundice is a common condition in newborn babies, which can cause yellowing of the skin and eyes due to an excess buildup of bilirubin in the blood. One of the most effective treatments for jaundice is light therapy, which uses a specific type of light to help break down the bilirubin so that it can be easily excreted from the body. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what light therapy is and how it can help babies with jaundice.
Jaundice is a common condition in newborns, affecting up to 60% of full-term babies and 80% of premature babies. It occurs when bilirubin, a yellow pigment produced by the liver when it breaks down red blood cells, builds up in the baby’s blood. Bilirubin normally leaves the body through feces, but in newborns, their liver may not be mature enough to process it efficiently.
Traditional Treatments for Jaundice
The most common treatment for jaundice is phototherapy, which involves exposing the baby to blue or white light. The light helps to break down bilirubin into a form that the body can eliminate more easily. In severe cases, exchange transfusion may be necessary, which involves replacing the baby’s blood with fresh blood.
Light Therapy for Jaundice
Light therapy has been used for decades to treat jaundice, and it remains the standard of care in hospitals worldwide. In recent years, advances in technology have made light therapy even more effective and efficient.
How Light Therapy Works
Light therapy works by shining a specific wavelength of light, usually blue or white, on the baby’s skin. The light penetrates the skin and is absorbed by the bilirubin in the blood. The absorbed light causes the bilirubin molecules to break down into smaller, more water-soluble molecules that can be eliminated from the body through urine and feces.
Benefits of Light Therapy
Light therapy is safe, non-invasive, and painless. It can be done in the hospital or at home with a portable phototherapy device. Light therapy is effective in reducing bilirubin levels and preventing the need for more invasive treatments like exchange transfusion.
Limitations of Light Therapy
While light therapy is generally safe and effective, there are some limitations to its use. It may not be effective in treating severe cases of jaundice or when the baby has other underlying medical conditions. In rare cases, light therapy can cause skin rash or skin burns.
FAQs – What Does Light Therapy Do for Jaundice?
What is jaundice, and how does it occur?
Jaundice is a medical condition characterized by a yellowish discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes caused by a buildup of a substance called bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a waste product of the normal breakdown of red blood cells in the body. When there is a problem with the liver, bilirubin can accumulate and cause jaundice.
How does light therapy help treat jaundice?
Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is a treatment used to reduce the levels of bilirubin in the blood. During the treatment, the baby is placed under a special type of light that helps break down the bilirubin in the skin. The light penetrates the skin and changes the bilirubin into a form that can be easily excreted from the body through urine or stool.
What types of light therapy are available for jaundice?
The most common type of light therapy used for jaundice is called conventional phototherapy, in which the baby is placed under a blue light for several hours each day until the bilirubin levels decrease. Another type of phototherapy is called intensive phototherapy. This method uses brighter lights and is sometimes used when the jaundice is severe.
Are there any side effects of light therapy for jaundice?
Most babies tolerate light therapy well, and there are usually no serious side effects. However, some babies may experience skin irritation or rash, loose stools, and dehydration. It is important to monitor the baby’s skin and hydration levels during treatment.
How long does light therapy treatment last for jaundice?
The duration of light therapy treatment for jaundice depends on the severity of the condition. In most cases, treatment lasts for one to two days, but it can last longer if the bilirubin levels remain high. It is important to follow the doctor’s recommendations and monitor the baby’s bilirubin levels closely to ensure that the treatment is effective.