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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Little Light Couldn't Hurt

The days are gray and cold. Days pass without ever seeing the sun. Welcome to the time when many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Many of us have heard about Seasonal affective disorder or SAD… but what are the common characteristics?
• Approximately 17 % of Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which
is commonly called "winter depression."
• It is characterized by recurrent episodes of depression, carbohydrate
craving, weight gain that begins in autumn and continues through the winter
• Many people experience fatigue, loss of energy, and feelings of worthlessness
all due to the loss of sunlight.
• Typically SAD occurs 4 times as many times in women. The average age of onset
is 23 years old.

Does Seasonal Affective disorder only occur during the fall and winter?
Actually, research indicates there is also something called "summer depression" which occurs in spring and lasts during the summer. It is characterized by depression, decreased sleep, weight loss and poor appetite.

What is the typical treatment for Seasonal Affective disorder?
• Light therapy has been the most successful form of therapy. This is usually done with a light box, which is 10,000 lux and the patient starts with 10-15 minute sessions per day and increases the sessions to 30-45 minutes per day. Light boxes range in cost from $200-$500 depending on the features of the unit. Most recently, some companies have developed new full-spectrum bulbs (with a blue light) that can be placed in lamps and are purchased at a fraction of the cost of traditional light boxes.
• Counseling- therapy that helps patients deal with issues of depression, coping
strategies, and mechanisms for dealing with issues in their lives
• Therapy combined with medication as needed
• Despite claims, there is no evidence to indicate that tanning beds (where the
eyes are generally covered) are useful in the treatment of SAD. Actually,
tanning beds are relatively high in UV rays, which can be harmful to the eyes
and the skin.

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