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Does light therapy work for vision?

In our quest for clearer vision and improved eye health, we often explore various treatment options. Light therapy is an emerging way to improve vision and eye health non-invasively and naturally. This article aims to demystify light therapy, delve into its scientific principles, discuss the vision conditions it can potentially treat, present relevant research findings, help you decide if light therapy for vision treatment is right for you, and provide guidance on selecting the right equipment.

Does light therapy work for vision?

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What Is Light Therapy?

Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, involves the controlled exposure to specific wavelengths of light to stimulate various biological processes in the body. It utilizes different light sources, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or specialized lamps, to emit light of specific colors and intensities. These targeted light wavelengths penetrate the skin and ocular tissues, stimulating cellular responses that have potential therapeutic effects.

Light therapy involves exposure to artificial light under controlled conditions. It was originally developed to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and certain skin conditions, but has since been adapted as a non-invasive treatment for eye diseases.

How Does Light Therapy Improve Vision?

Light therapy aims to improve vision by interacting with light-sensitive cells in the eye and biological molecules involved in vision. Here are some of the key mechanisms:

Boosting Dopamine Production

Light exposure encourages retinal cells to produce more dopamine, an important neurotransmitter for vision. Dopamine plays a key role in adapting to light/dark conditions. Insufficient dopamine is linked to impaired eyesight. Light therapy replenishes dopamine levels, which may improve visual acuity.

Increasing Photoreceptor Responsiveness

Photoreceptors are light-sensitive cells in the retina. Studies show that phototherapy enhances photoreceptor functioning, which improves their response to light stimuli. Restoring photoreceptor responsiveness may be helpful for eye diseases that damage these cells.

Increasing Ocular Blood Flow

Light therapy improves circulation and oxygen supply to the eyes. Red and near-infrared wavelengths induce vasodilation, increasing ocular blood flow. This provides the retina and optic nerve with improved oxygen and nutrient delivery to support healthy function.

Reducing Oxidative Stress

Light exposure promotes activity of the antioxidant enzyme catalase in the eyes. This reduces oxidative stress, which can damage retinal cells when excessive. Managing oxidative stress and free radicals supports healthy cells and vision.

Modulating Key Neurochemicals

Light influences levels of key neuropeptides and neurotransmitters involved in vision, including dopamine and melanopsin. Balancing these light-sensitive neurochemicals can help optimize visual processing and circadian rhythms.

Reduces inflammation

Chronic inflammation can damage retinal cells and impair signaling. The wavelengths used in light therapy devices have anti-inflammatory effects in the eye that may protect photoreceptors and reduce oxidative damage. Some vision disorders have inflammatory components. Research indicates bright light therapy can calm inflammation in the eyes by suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokines and boosting anti-inflammatory ones. Less inflammation may relieve symptoms.

Now that we’ve reviewed the general mechanisms, let’s discuss which specific vision conditions may respond to light therapy.

How Does Light Therapy Improve Vision?

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What Kinds of Vision Problems Can Light Therapy Help?

  • Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD): Specific wavelengths of light can help slow down the degenerative processes in the macula.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy: By promoting blood circulation and reducing inflammation, light therapy can potentially help improve retinal health and slow disease progression.
  • Glaucoma: Light exposure helps regulate intraocular pressure and retinal blood flow in glaucoma patients.
  • Cataracts: Evidence suggests light therapy delays cataract progression and improves vision after cataract surgery.
  • Eye strain: Light therapy can relieve eye fatigue and stress from overuse of digital devices.
  • Night vision and glare recovery: Light exposure before night driving or work improves adaptation to low light and glare.
  • Post-concussion vision syndrome: Light therapy shows potential for correcting vision problems after concussion or traumatic brain injury.
  • Circadian rhythm disorders: Light exposure regulates melatonin and circadian cycles to improve sleep and vision issues.
  • Dry Eye Disease: Light therapy promotes tear secretion and may relieve dry eye symptoms.
  • Myopia: Some research indicates daily light therapy sessions may help slow the progression of myopia in children by regulating dopamine and eye growth.

Research on light therapy for vision treatment

A growing body of research provides support for the benefits of light therapy on vision. Here is a review of some of the key studies:

  • A clinical trial published in Scientific Reports had subjects use a 670nm red light therapy device for 3 minutes a day. It was found that the subjects’ vision improved by 17-20%.[1]
  • Several studies have also shown that red light therapy can be used as an intervention to slow down myopia in children.
    Red light exposure as an intervention for myopia.[2 3 4]
  • A clinical trial in IVOS found that red light therapy can improve diabetic retinopathy in vivo and reduce oxidative stress and cell death in vitro, thereby mitigating the development of diabetic retinopathy.[5]
  • In studies of rodent models of methanol-induced ocular toxicity, photodamage, retinitis pigmentosa, and age-related macular degeneration, red light therapy was found to attenuate photoreceptor cell death, protect retinal function, and exert anti-inflammatory effects.[6]
  • A double-blind study in “Retina” reports that red light therapy has great benefits for early-stage dry age-related macular degeneration and is a safe and effective treatment.[7]

Overall, current evidence indicates light therapy can improve objective and subjective measures of visual function in people with impairments, at least on a short-term basis.

Who should not use light therapy?

If declining vision is affecting your daily life, light therapy may offer a safe, non-invasive way to strengthen your eyes. But light therapy does have some contraindications:

While generally very safe, light therapy does have some contraindications:

  • Light sensitivity disorders: People with lupus, chronic actinic dermatitis, solar urticaria, and certain types of porphyria are photosensitive and should avoid light therapy.
  • Retinal diseases: Those with advanced AMD or retinitis pigmentosa must use light therapy cautiously under an eye doctor’s supervision as the light can potentially damage the retina.
  • Ocular albinism: The lack of protective pigment puts albino eyes at higher risk for light overexposure. Light therapy must be used carefully.
  • Medication photosensitivity: Check for any drug reactions as certain medications like antihistamines, antibiotics, NSAIDs, blood pressure medicines, and chemotherapeutics increase light sensitivity.
  • Pregnancy: There are no known risks, but most doctors recommend avoiding light therapy as a precaution during pregnancy.

Children and elderly people should also use appropriate settings and supervision, as their eyes are more vulnerable. Anyone receiving light therapy should have regular eye exams.

Choosing Effective and Safe Light Therapy Devices

With a growing number of devices available, make sure to choose a high-quality light therapy device. Here are key features to look for:

  • FDA cleared – Ensure your device has been approved for safety and efficacy.
  • Precise wavelengths – Look for narrowband wavelengths targeted to the visual system. Good options: 630nm (red light), 670nm (deep red), 810nm (near infrared), 1070nm (infrared).
  • Light-emitting diodes – LEDs offer optimal light concentration and energy efficiency compared to other light sources. Make sure your device uses LEDs.
  • Enough LED clusters – Multiple arrays of LEDs spread horizontal and vertically across lenses are ideal to maximize light delivery to the retina.
  • Flexible duration – Timers to set custom exposure lengths allow you to adjust duration based on your condition and tolerability.


In conclusion, light therapy holds promising potential as a non-invasive treatment modality forimproving vision. With ongoing research and advancements in technology, phototherapy may continue to evolve as a valuable adjunctive treatment for various vision conditions. As always, when considering light therapy to improve vision, it is important to follow recommended guidelines.



[1]Shinhmar, H., Hogg, C., Neveu, M. et al. Weeklong improved colour contrasts sensitivity after single 670 nm exposures associated with enhanced mitochondrial function. Sci Rep 11, 22872 (2021).

[2]Zhu Huang, Ting He, Junna Zhang, Chixin Du. Red light irradiation as an intervention for myopia. Review Indian J Ophthalmol. 2022 Sep;70(9):3198-3201.

[3]Jie Tang, Ya Liao, Na Ya, et al. Efficacy of Repeated Low-Level Red-Light Therapy for Slowing the Progression of Childhood Myopia: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Review Am J Ophthalmol. 2023 Aug;252:153-163.

[4]Yu Jiang, Zhuoting Zhu, Xingping Tan, et al. Effect of Repeated Low-Level Red-Light Therapy for Myopia Control in Children: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial. Randomized Controlled Trial Ophthalmology. 2022 May;129(5):509-519.

[5]Johnny Tang; Yunpeng Du; Chieh Allen Lee, et al. Low-Intensity Far-Red Light Inhibits Early Lesions That Contribute to Diabetic Retinopathy: In Vivo and In Vitro. IOVS. Volume 54, Issue 5;May 2013.

[6]Janis T Eells, Sandeep Gopalakrishnan, Krisztina Valter. Near-Infrared Photobiomodulation in Retinal Injury and Disease. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2016;854:437-41.


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