As you age the energy-producing machinery in your eye cells, called mitochondria, begin to decline in number. The retina, which contains the highest concentration of mitochondria of any tissue in the body. By age 40 there is a significant decline in the function of the two kinds of light-sensing cells of the retina: cones, which sense color; and rods, which sense light. And with decline comes a loss of vision.
Enter red light therapy…
Red light in the 670nm range has been shown to improve damaged or aging nerve function and a clinical study published in The Journals of Gerontology aimed to find out if ‘supplementing’ the retina with wavelengths in the 670nm range of the visible light spectrum could stimulate the cells to produce more energy and potentially reverse age-related vision loss.
In the study, 24 healthy volunteers ranging in age from 28 to 72 years used red light therapy for 3 minutes each morning for 2 weeks. Participants were further divided into two groups, each with an equal mix of ages. One group tested color contrast sensitivity the other group tested light sensitivity.
At the start of the study, those 40 years and older in both groups showed an average of 20% loss in color contrast, with some as high as 47%.
After two weeks of red-light therapy, color vision improved by an average of 22% in the older individuals. In the light sensitivity group, 75% showed improvement, including some of the younger participants.
How the Aging Process Affects Vision
The aging process affects retinal cells differently. Rods tend to die off by about 30% by age 70 as mitochondrial function declines. Cones, by contrast, don’t die, rather they decline in function.
Additionally, cones that process blue light have fewer mitochondria than cones that process green or red wavelengths so they are more vulnerable to the effects of mitochondrial decline. Screen increases blue light exposure and there is some controversy over its potential adverse effects on visual health.
How Red Light Restores Vision Loss
Red light reverses age-related vision loss by restoring function in those parts of the retina that are most impacted by the aging process.
· Increased Light Sensitivity in Low Light Conditions
Because the use of artificial light in the evening extends the use of rods, red light therapy can improve low-light vision by improving the function of rod cells.
· Protection Against Loss of Sensitivity to Blue Light
By improving the function of all cones and blue cones, in particular, red light therapy may help restore and protect color vision. This study showed significant improvement in color contrast sensitivity for blue light.
When to Use Red Light Therapy
Mitochondria function at varying capacities throughout the day and are most efficient at producing energy in the morning. It is thought that most benefits occur when their energy efficiency is greatest but when they are not functioning at maximum capacity and are better able to absorb the light and use it to boost energy production. For this reason, the benefits of red-light therapy are greatest in the morning.
Additional Health Benefits of Red-Light Therapy
The benefits of red-light therapy aren’t limited to protecting visual health. Red light therapy has also been found to improve health in a variety of other ways. By improving mitochondrial function, energy production, and reducing inflammation red-light therapy has been shown to:
- Slow the effects of aging on the skin
- Heal acne
- Promote re-pigmentation of the skin in patients with vitiligo
- Speed wound healing
- Reduce swelling and inflammation
- Improve antioxidant levels
- Improve blood flow to the brain
- Speed healing from traumatic brain injury
Gamma’s Revive red light therapy lamp is now available in 670nm, the precise wavelength scientifically proven to improve visual health. Click here to order.
1. Red/near-infrared irradiation therapy for treatment of central nervous system injuries and disorders. Reviews in the neurosciences, 2013. 24(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23492552
2. Optically Improved Mitochondrial Function Redeems Aged Human Visual Decline. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences, 2020. 75(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32596723
3. Mitochondrial absorption of short wavelength light drives primate blue retinal cones into glycolysis which may increase their pace of aging. Visual neuroscience, 2019. 36 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31199213
4. A day in the life of mitochondria reveals shifting workloads. Scientific reports, 2019. 9(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31554906
5. Photobiomodulation: The Clinical Applications of Low-Level Light Therapy. Aesthetic surgery journal, 2021. 41(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/33471046
6. Photobiomodulation for traumatic brain injury and stroke. Journal of neuroscience research, 2018. 96(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29131369