Does Light Therapy for Wound Healing?

Keywords: #Wound Healing,

May 7, 2024 720 Views

Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is an emerging treatment that uses different colors of light to stimulate healing and reduce inflammation. But does shining light on your skin help wounds heal faster? Here’s a comprehensive look at how light therapy works for wound healing.

light therapy healing

What is Light Therapy?

Light therapy involves exposing the skin to specific wavelengths and colors of light. It is thought to work by interacting with our cells to stimulate biological processes that accelerate healing.

Different colors of light are used for different therapeutic effects:

  • Red light (600-700nm wavelength) penetrates deepest into the skin and is used to stimulate collagen production, improve blood flow, and reduce inflammation – all of which help wounds heal faster.
  • Blue light (400-500nm wavelength) has antibacterial properties that can help prevent infection in wounds.
  • Yellow light (550-600nm) may decrease inflammation and help rebuild tissue.
  • Green light (495-570nm) also has anti-inflammatory effects.

Light therapy has been studied and utilized for decades for various medical indications. NASA originally developed LED light therapies in the 1990s to help plants grow in space stations. But they soon realized that the light could help wounds heal faster. Since then, phototherapy has become a more accepted and widely used therapy.

How Does Light Therapy Work for Wound Healing?

How Does Light Therapy Work for Wound Healing?

Light therapy supports and accelerates the complex biological process of wound healing. Here are some of the key mechanisms:

Increases Blood Flow and Oxygenation: Light therapy dilates blood vessels and stimulates the formation of new capillaries. This brings more oxygen and nutrients to the wound site, facilitating healing.

  • Reduces Inflammation: The light has an anti-inflammatory effect, calming the damaged tissues and facilitating the healing process. This helps reduce pain and swelling.
  • Stimulates Collagen Production: Collagen provides strength and structure to skin and tissues. Light therapy enhances collagen synthesis, helping rebuild tissue at the wound site.
  • Promotes Cell Growth: The light energizes the cells and stimulates their metabolism and multiplication. This helps recreate healthy tissue to close and repair the wound.
  • Kills Bacteria: Blue light in particular has antibacterial properties that help sanitize wounds and prevent infection. This creates optimal conditions for healing.
  • Eases Edema and Swelling: By improving blood flow, light therapy helps drain fluids and reduces edema around wounds. This helps relieve pain and discomfort.
  • Increases Tissue Oxygenation: More oxygen delivered to the wound stimulates growth factors, fibroblasts, and collagen production to assist healing.
  • Recruiting immune cells: Specific frequencies of light attract immune cells like macrophages and leukocytes to the wound bed, where they remove debris and pathogens to prepare the area for new tissue to form.

By optimizing these biological processes needed for skin regeneration and recovery, light therapy aims to accelerate wound closure and restore integrity to damaged skin.

What Color Light Therapy Heals Wounds?

What Color Light Therapy Heals Wounds?

Light therapy uses visible light of different wavelengths or colors for healing:

Red Light
Red light wavelengths of 630 to 660 nanometers deeply penetrate the skin and stimulate ATP production in cells. This delivers more energy to cells to facilitate wound healing. Red light also reduces inflammation and swelling. It helps rebuild damaged tissue by increasing collagen production.

Blue Light
Blue wavelengths of 460 to 470 nm have antibacterial properties that help sanitize wounds and prevent infection. Blue light kills methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other bacteria responsible for delayed healing. It also reduces inflammation and swelling.

Yellow Light
Yellow 590 nm light penetrates tissue and stimulates the production of fibroblasts. These help generate new connective tissue at the wound site. Yellow light also enhances the immune response and decreases inflammation.

Infrared Light
Infrared light from 700 to 1000 nm induces vasodilation and brings more oxygen-rich blood to heal wounds. It also accelerates cell growth and tissue granulation to help reconstruct damaged tissue.

So by using a combination of different colored lights, light therapy provides multiple benefits at various stages of the wound healing process. The variety of wavelengths allows for a synergistic effect.

What Kinds of Wounds Can Light Therapy Help Heal?

Research indicates light therapy may be beneficial for healing many different types of skin wounds, including:

  • Diabetic ulcers: Chronic, non-healing wounds that can develop in people with diabetes, usually on the feet.
  • Pressure ulcers: Bedsores and other wounds caused by prolonged pressure on the skin.
  • Surgical wounds: Incisions from surgery. Light therapy is sometimes used post-operatively to optimize scar healing.
  • Skin grafts: Light may improve graft survival and integration when skin is transplanted from one part of the body to another.
  • Burns: Light therapy shows promise for decreasing inflammation and stimulating tissue repair in burn injuries.
  • Skin tears: Minor tears to the top layer of skin that often occur in elderly patients.
  • Eczema lesions: Breaks in the skin due to inflammatory conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

The anti-inflammatory, tissue regenerating and infection-fighting effects of light make it theoretically useful for healing all kinds of open wounds by supporting the body’s natural repair processes. Light therapy speeds healing in all phases of wound repair:

  • Inflammatory Phase: The light reduces inflammation and swelling to prep the wound.
  • Proliferation Phase: It stimulates cell growth, new blood vessels, and tissue granulation.
  • Maturation Phase: The light enhances collagen to strengthen repaired tissue and help close the wound.

The Science Behind Light Therapy for Wound Healing

The Science Behind Light Therapy for Wound Healing

A growing body of research suggests that light therapy, especially using red and near-infrared light, can indeed provide meaningful improvements in chronic wound healing:

  • Research published in Photomed Laser Surg in 2004 showed that 632 nm red light is effective in treating chronic skin wounds in diabetic patients.[1]
  • A 2014 study conducted by the Beckman Laser Institute at the University of California concluded that red light therapy can accelerate wound healing in vitro.[2]
  • A 2015 study found that 660nm red light improved wound healing in rats.[3]

While early research is promising, more high-quality clinical trials in humans are still needed to better demonstrate the efficacy of phototherapy for different wound types. However, the existing data is encouraging and shows light therapy deserves serious consideration for stubborn, chronic wounds.

How Red Light Therapy for  Wound Healing After Surgery?

How Red Light Therapy Boosts Healing After Surgery?

To understand how red light can help you heal, we first need to explore what happens in the body after surgery.

Any surgical procedure causes acute inflammation and trauma to tissues and cells around the incision site. This triggers the body’s natural healing response.

The stages of surgical wound healing are:

  1. Inflammation – The injured blood vessels leak fluid and proteins into the wound site, causing swelling. White blood cells rush to the area to fight bacteria and remove damaged and dead cells.
  2. Proliferation – New blood vessels form to deliver nutrients and oxygen to regenerating tissue. Fibroblasts produce collagen to mend damaged structures. Epithelial cells multiply to recreate the skin’s protective barrier.
  3. Remodeling – Collagen fibers reorganize and crosslink for strength. New cells and vessels that are no longer needed are removed. Scar tissue forms.

This complex choreography of cells takes time. And any delays or disruptions in the process can lead to slow, disorganized healing with excessive scarring.

The great news is that red light therapy has been scientifically proven to help optimize and accelerate every phase of surgical healing!

Now let’s look at the ways red light boosts healing at the cellular level:

Increases Blood Flow and Circulation

Red light stimulates the formation of new blood vessels in a process called angiogenesis. This amplifies blood flow to bring oxygen, nutrients, and immune cells into the area to expedite healing and tissue regeneration.

Reduces Inflammation

The light decreases inflammatory chemicals like cytokines while increasing anti-inflammatory signals. This helps resolve post-surgical swelling and bruising faster.

Energizes Cellular Powerhouses

Red light boosts mitochondria, which act as the “batteries” inside cells, to fuel repair processes through increased ATP energy production.

Accelerates Skin Cell and Tissue Regeneration

Studies show red light encourages faster multiplication of skin cells (fibroblasts and epithelial cells) as well as collagen production to mend injured structures.

Stimulates Wound Healing Genes

Red light activates specialized genes involved in tissue regeneration and wound healing. This optimizes healing at a genetic level.

Enhances Immune Function

By reducing inflammation and energizing immune cells, red light strengthens the body’s defenses to prevent infection and support healing.

Relieves Pain

The light stimulates your body’s natural painkillers like endorphins and reduces nerve sensitivity, bringing fast pain relief after surgery.

As you can see, red light provides an incredibly powerful and multi-targeted approach to supercharge healing from the inside out.

Is Light Therapy Safe For Wound Healing?

Is Light Therapy Safe For Wound HEALING?

Phototherapy using red and near-infrared wavelengths within the parameters tested in most research studies appears to be very safe, with a low risk of side effects. However, a few precautions are warranted:

– Light therapy is generally safe for most people, but certain medical conditions may be contraindications. Talk to your doctor before trying light therapy if you have a condition that makes your skin particularly sensitive to light.

– UV light can damage skin, so phototherapy devices should only use visible red or near-infrared diodes that emit longer, safer wavelengths. Don’t use tanning beds or other UV sources.

– Abide by treatment parameters recommended for your device and don’t exceed the intended dose. More is not necessarily better with light therapy.

– Watch for potential signs of skin irritation like excessive redness, pain, and blistering. Discontinue use if this occurs.

– Don’t shine blue light on your eyes. Protective goggles should be worn.

– Use caution if you are taking medications that increase photosensitivity.

With appropriate wavelengths and dosing, most people can use LED light panels and devices safely at home under the guidance of their healthcare provider. Light therapy is well-tolerated with minimal side effects in the majority of patients. Work with your doctor to determine if trying phototherapy for your wound is appropriate.

How to choose a light therapy device?

If you and your doctor decide that light therapy is worth trying, it’s important to choose an appropriate FDA-approved device from a reputable company. Here are some key factors to consider when shopping for a home light therapy device:

– Wavelength: Select a device with wavelengths that target your specific condition (usually 600-1000nm for red/NIR).

– Power Density: Higher irradiances (mW/cm2) allow shorter treatment times. Look for 50-100 mW/cm2.

– Timer Settings: Variable timers to control the length of light exposure as needed per treatment and wound size. Devices with automatic shut-off timers help ensure proper treatment times.

– Eye Safety: LEDs should have protective housing. Look for eye shields as added protection.

– Warranty: Choose devices with at least a 1-3 year manufacturer’s warranty on defects.

– Manufacturer reputation: Established companies with experience in phototherapy offer reliable products.

– Cost: Consider asking your insurance provider if light therapy is covered. Home units range from $50 for small wands up to $3000 for full-body LED beds. Choose a device that fits your budget.

By keeping these factors in mind, you can pick out a high-quality light therapy unit for optimal wound healing. Reputable brands like RedDot LED offer FDA-cleared devices with clinical results.



[1]Kimberly R Byrnes, Lauren Barna, V Michelle Chenault, et al. Photobiomodulation improves cutaneous wound healing in an animal model of type II diabetes. Photomed Laser Surg. 2004 Aug;22(4):281-90.

[2]Ryan Spitler, Michael W Berns. Comparison of laser and diode sources for the acceleration of in vitro wound healing by low-level light therapy. Journal of Biomedical Optics 19(3), 038001. 2014, March.

[3]Fernanda Camila Ferreira da Silva Calisto, Sérgio Luís da Silva Calisto, et al. Use of a low-power laser to assist in the healing of traumatic wounds in rats. Acta Cir Bras. 2015 Mar;30(3):204-8.