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Medical Use of Ultraviolet Lights

Updated February 21, 2017

Part of the radiation from the sun is called ultraviolet light. This electromagnetic radiation is a shorter wavelength than visible light and kills microorganisms. The medical industry uses ultraviolet light to sterilise rooms, equipment and medical instruments. It is also used as a medical treatment.

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Freidrich William Herscel was a German astronomer who used a glass prism with different colours of light to experiment with sunlight. In 1800, he discovered an invisible light that he called "Ultra-red." Johann Wilhelm Ritter also conducted experiments in 1801. He found a form of light beyond the violet end of the spectrum. He referred to this light as chemical rays but it was later called ultraviolet light.


Medical uses of ultraviolet light include disinfection and sterilisation without the use of chemicals. Ultraviolet light is also used to destroy bacteria and viruses. In the year 1877, two English scientists named Downes and Blunt, discovered that bacteria died in the sunlight. In 1892, Marshall Ward demonstrated that the bactericidal actions were from the ultraviolet part of the spectrum. Ultraviolet light is also used as a safe medical treatment. It stimulates the immune system and has shown good results in killing blood borne pathogens.


Ultraviolet light is environmentally friendly which makes it ideal for use in the medical field. It deactivates the DNA from pathogens and makes it impossible for them to multiply. Ultraviolet light damages the nucleic acid of microorganisms which keeps the organism from reproducing. Some microorganisms destroyed by ultraviolet light are bacillus anthracis, salmonella or food poisoning, shigella dysentariae or dysentery, bacteriophage or E. coli, hepatitis and influenza. Ultraviolet light can be combined with other therapies. Dr. Stallone at Arizona Integrative Medical Center uses ozone or hydrogen peroxide combined with light therapy to restore oxidative metabolism. This treats chronic diseases.


Some kinds of skin conditions can improve with the exposure of ultraviolet light. This is called phototherapy. UVA phototherapy is generally used along with psoralen which is a light sensitising tablet. Psoralen is called PUVA therapy. Broad band UVB is another ultraviolet light therapy but can only be used on the areas of skin without folds. Narrowband UVB uses one wavelength to treat skin diseases and is very beneficial for psoriasis. It is also used to treat pruritus, vitiligo and lichen planus. These treatments help heal inflamed tissues, damaged cells and wounds. There may be some side effects and people with medical problems shouldn't be treated.

UV Germicidal Lights

Ultraviolet germicidal or bactericidal lamps are often used in the medical field to help keep disease under control so it doesn't spread. These lamps give a strong effect of ultraviolet energy which makes them excellent for sanitising the air and killing germs and bacteria. hey also get rid of moulds, mildews, fungi and many kinds of viruses. Hospitals use UV germicidal lamps for sterilising surgical instruments and even the air in operating rooms. These lamps are installed safely to keep anyone from being exposed to them.

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About the Author

Sherry Barnhart

Sherry Barnhart has been writing web content and articles since 2006. Her articles have appeared on various websites and she ghostwrites for several companies. She is in the process of expanding her writing to include blogging, flipping sites and writing informational products. Barnhart is also working on a children's book for ages 10 to 14.

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