Could bright lights help treat more than seasonal depression?

Could bright lights help treat more than seasonal depression?

When you think of light therapy, many associate the treatment method with seasonal affective disorder, also known as winter depression. But a recent study revealed bright lights may actually prove beneficial for another disorder among men: low sexual desire, or libido.

As part of the study, a small group of men diagnosed with a low sexual desire, or sexual arousal disorder, were exposed to bright light via a light box with an ultraviolet filter for 30 minutes a day in the early morning. The control group was given a similar box that emitted significantly less light.

“We found fairly significant differences between those who received the active light treatment and the controls,” said Andrea Fagioli, study author and professor at the University of Siena School of Medicine in Italy, in a news release. “Before treatment, both groups averaged a sexual satisfaction score of around 2 out of 10, but after treatment, the group exposed to the bright light was scoring sexual satisfaction scores of around 6.3 – a more than 3-fold increase on the scale we used. In contrast, the control group only showed an average score of around 2.7 after treatment.”

Researchers found that the light therapy increased the testosterone levels of the patients, which could be the reason for their greater sexual satisfaction. They noted that testosterone levels generally decline from November to April for individuals living in the northern hemisphere, possibly due to the lower amount of daylight hours.

Because of the small scale of the study, don’t look for light therapy to be prescribed immediately. The researchers, however, do believe that light therapy may prove beneficial in the future as an alternative to current medications used to treat low sexual desire with fewer side effects.

Until that time, though, there are other options to help increase sex drive.

“It’s natural for the aging male body to experience a decline in testosterone,” says Dr. Scott Carrington, AMG family medicine physician of Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “A decline in testosterone may be mitigated by exercise, a healthy diet, managing stress and getting enough sleep.”

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About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.