Red Light Therapy: Help for Aging Eyes?

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by Nils Osmar – May 26, 2022

Red light therapy is reputed to have numerous benefits, including raising testosterone levels. Some recent studies suggest that it may also benefit our vision. But does red light therapy actually “work”, and can it improve our visual acuity?

The answer is yes, according to a 2020 study published in the Journals of Gerontology entitled “Optically Improved Mitochondrial Function Redeems Aged Human Visual Decline”.

The study was reviewed in a CNN news article, which noted:

“A few minutes of looking into a deep red light could have a dramatic effect on preventing eyesight decline as we age, according to a new study published this week in The Journals of Gerontology.

“If the results are replicated in future studies, and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, the light could augur a new era in which millions of people have access to the easy home-based therapy. It would give them a new layer of protection against the natural aging processes that steal our eyes’ sensitivity to light and ability to distinguish colors.

According to an AJMC (American Journal of Managed Care) article called Can Red Light Exposure Improve Eyesight, which followed up on the same study:

  • Over the total group spanning ages 28 to 68 years, there was a significant 14% improvement … after exposure to 670 nm.
  • In those over the age of 38, there was a 22% improvement…
  • Improved sensitivity of scotopic thresholds was found in 8 of the 12 subjects, 3 of which were under the age of 40

From the Study:

The age spectrum of human populations is shifting toward the older with larger proportions suffering physical decline. Mitochondria influence the pace of aging as the energy they provide for cellular function in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) declines with age.

Mitochondrial density is greatest in photoreceptors, particularly cones that have high energy demands and mediate color vision. Hence, the retina ages faster than other organs, with a 70% ATP reduction over life and a significant decline in photoreceptor function.

670-nm light had no impact in younger individuals, but in those around 40 years and older, significant improvements were obtained in color contrast sensitivity for the blue visual axis … known to display mitochondrial vulnerability. …Rod thresholds also improved significantly in those >40 years. Using specific wavelengths to enhance mitochondrial performance will be significant in moderating the aging process in this metabolically demanding tissue.

My Experience – Speaking Anecdotally:

  • I do red light therapy every morning for about 10 minutes with two wavelengths of red light.
  • I sometimes notice an improvement in my eyesight for an hour after my red light session: greater visual acuity, colors look more vivid, details look sharper and clearer.
  • I should clarify though that I’m doing this in conjunction with other interventions, including cold exposure. I first take a cold shower or hot/cold contrast shower to stress my mitochondria and make them work harder.
  • I then get full body exposure to the light. One of the first things I noticed was an improvement in my color perception and perception of fine details.

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