Research throws new light on wounds that won’t heal
Medicines are good, but for patients with wounds that refuse to heal, light can be even better.
Light – in the form of low-level light therapy or photobiomodulation, say researchers at the University of Johannesburg – can also speed up healing from painful conditions, surgery and fluid retention.
A small study involving 10 patients showed that those who lost feeling in their feet and hands as a result of diabetes regained some of their sensitivity after receiving the treatment.
Senior researcher Dr Nicolette Houreld said: “The study’s results show real promise as a future medical treatment, so we’re doing a follow-up study with more people.”
Prof Heidi Abrahamse, director at the university’s Laser Research Centre, said diabetic patients could benefit significantly from this treatment.
“Often, they can’t even feel a shoe rubbing off skin or that they are burning their fingers. They end up with wounds that just don’t heal despite treatment with medications,” she said.
Last month, the university hosted a workshop to teach students and medical professionals – including dermatologists, physiotherapists and podiatrists – the benefits of photobiomodulation.
“We use low-power lasers or light-emitting diodes in photobiomodulation. This treatment calms down inflammation, speeds up the formation of new blood vessels and speeds up healing when applied correctly to wounds and painful areas,” said Abrahamse.
“Diabetic wounds can heal faster when photobiomodulation is used in combination with medications. A small number of medical professionals in South Africa are using this treatment already.”
Houreld said light-treatment “boosts” helped the body to overcome barriers to healing. “For some difficult-to-heal wounds, it’s as if that part of the body is ‘stuck’ in the inflammation phase. When we use photobiomodulation, the laser light causes the body to produce fewer anti-inflammatories and to move along the various phases of healing much faster.”