Chronic skin ulcers such as those associated with diabetes are notoriously difficult to treat. As a result, we've seen experimental approaches such as spray-on skin, ultrasound band-aids, and silver-laced dressings. Now, scientists are getting very good results using a high-tech lamp.

Developed by a team from Britain's University of Manchester and Salford Royal NHS Trust, the device has a total of 32 bulbs which emit a combination of infrared, red and ultraviolet light.

Led by Dr. Michael Hughes, the researchers tested it on eight patients suffering from systemic sclerosis, a condition in which the immune system attacks the fingers and toes. Each person received two 15-minute treatments per week, for a period of three weeks. Those treatments simply involved holding their ulcerated appendage under the lamp.

Once the three weeks were up, the test subjects were found to have experienced an average 83-percent improvement in the healing of their ulcers, and no side effects were noted.

It is believed that the ultraviolet light – although harmful in high doses – helps ulcers to heal by killing bacteria and reducing inflammation. The red light, on the other hand, may increase the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the wound by boosting blood circulation, along with stimulating the production of collagen in the skin. And for its part, infrared light is also said to increase blood flow.

The scientists hope that once developed further, the lamp could be used by patients in their homes, perhaps even with a built-in camera and SIM card that would allow doctors to monitor their progress remotely. By contrast, currently-used laser-light ulcer treatments must be performed in a hospital over multiple days, and require patients to take blood-pressure-lowering medication.

"Ulcers cause much distress to patients – and current treatments are costly to the NHS [National Health Service] and problematic for patients who can only receive them in hospital," says Hughes. "But this technology is cheap and practical – it's really a no brainer as it can be administered at home."

Plans call for the lamp to be trialled on diabetic ulcers with a year. A paper on the research was recently published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment.

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