Eye Conditions Treated by Red Light Therapy at HomeLast Updated:
Eye condition changes significantly throughout life, in appearance, health, and functionality.
The quality of vision deteriorates with age, and the onset of various eye diseases and conditions is imminent. Eye appearance also diminishes with age and in response to injury, health, or environmental conditions. Fine lines, wrinkles, droopy or crepey eyelids, eye bags, and under-eye circles are common.
Red light is an innovative new therapy growing in popularity for the treatment of eye issues related to both health and appearance.
Table of Contents
How Does Red Light Therapy Work on Your Eyes?
Red light therapy is also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT). Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are applied in the form of short red light waves, ranging in length from 630 to 700 nanometers. A nanometer equals one billionth of a meter.
Red light penetrates the mitochondria of the cells, stimulating the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Mitochondria is the “energy producer” within a cell, and ATP is the body’s primary method of biochemical energy transfer.
ATP is delivered to every tissue and organ in your body to provide increased energy within cells. Higher cellular energy promotes better oxygenation, reduces inflammation, enhances circulation, and boosts the immune system.
Red light therapy signals the body on a cellular level to combat illness, infection, and inflammation.
The eyes have the highest concentration of mitochondria in the body, so they are especially responsive to red light therapy.
Increased energy in the cells triggers fibroblast production, elevating the levels of collagen and elastin (proteins that keep your skin supple and firm). A fibroblast is a particular connective tissue cell that creates collagen and is critical to the healing process. The skin’s elasticity and hydration are improved, and inflammation is reduced.
Is Red Light Therapy Safe for Your Eyes?
Yes. In fact, it is the only form of light therapy that is completely safe for the eyes.
The following types of light are all linked to corneal or retinal damage and can harm the lens and optical nerve:
- Blue Light — used in skin treatment but not in eye therapy, blue light exposure comes mainly from electronic screen usage
- Ultraviolet (UV) Light — sunlight
- Bright White Light — direct light from common LED or other bulbs used in-home
Unlike these, red light will not burn your eyes or damage the skin around your eyes.
It is important to adhere to the best red light wavelengths (630 to 700 nanometers) in eye treatment. Red light wavelengths are shorter than far-infrared wavelengths, another form of harmful light. These two types of red light are not interchangeable. Only the shorter red wavelengths are appropriate for eye therapy.
What Eye Conditions Can Red Light Therapy Treat?
Red light therapy can benefit your eyes in an ever-growing list of ways.
The skin around your eye, particularly that of the eyelid, is the thinnest and most fragile skin on your entire body.
Your eyes work hard all day, with several tiny muscles functioning constantly to focus, blink, and move your eyeballs. The skin around your eyes is under constant strain from this motion.
The skin around your eyes is especially prone to premature aging due to its thinness and continuous muscular activity. It is often the first skin to display evidence of internal or external forces affecting skin health or quality.
The rejuvenating effects of red light therapy can help the skin around your eyes to be healthier and appear more youthful.
Eye Wrinkles and Droopy Eyelids
Collagen and elastin production and circulation quality naturally decrease throughout the aging process. This causes eye skin to become even thinner and sometimes saggy or droopy. Fine lines, deep wrinkles, under-eye wrinkles, “crow’s feet” (wrinkles extending from the outer corners of the eyes), and crepey eyelids are common effects.
Besides aging, wrinkles can result from dehydration, UV radiation exposure, pollution or poor air quality, smoking, dry climates, dehydration, squinting, and hereditary factors.
The lack of a healthy sleep regimen is another leading cause of eye wrinkles and droopy eyelids. This might be a temporary problem due to a few late nights, or an ongoing condition from a poor overall sleep routine. Whether long- or short-term, red light therapy can help improve the quality of sleep.
The good news is that thinner skin responds especially well to red light therapy. The wavelengths penetrate to cells easily, increasing energy production and collagen and elastin levels. With increased elasticity comes better hydration, circulation, firmer skin, and a diminished appearance of wrinkles.
Deep wrinkles are reduced and fine lines and wrinkles can virtually disappear.
Red light therapy utilizes the body’s natural functions to repair tissues, activating healing at the cellular level. This is something that anti-aging and anti-wrinkle eye creams and serums cannot do. They are merely topical solutions that do not penetrate deeply enough to activate cellular change.
Creams and lotions can also cause skin or eye irritation, whereas red light wavelengths will not. There are no such adverse effects to red light therapy.
Under-Eye Circles and Hollows
While dark under-eye circles and hollows aren’t textural like wrinkles, they are still unsightly and a sign of poor skin condition. They are caused by many of the same factors as wrinkles, but primarily by age, dehydration, or tiredness.
The collagen- and elastin-boosting properties of red light therapy, along with the resulting improvements in circulation, hydration, and oxygenation, also serve to regulate skin tone. Dark under-eye circles are replaced by a healthier, even-toned skin appearance.
It is important to maintain a healthy sleep regimen to manage under-eye circles. Red light therapy can be greatly beneficial, but no treatment can fully counteract the effects of an unhealthy sleep routine.
Puffy or Swollen Eyes
Because red light therapy reduces inflammation, puffiness or swelling around the eyes is alleviated.
Eyebrow growth in women tends to decline with age, and eyebrows may become patchy. The outer edges of eyebrows also naturally begin to drop as skin elasticity declines, causing a droopy look.
In areas where hair growth is natural, red light therapy’s ability to promote cellular energy jump-starts hair follicles. This assists with eyebrow thickening and regrowth. The increased elasticity and circulation also reduce droopiness, restoring a more natural eyebrow look.
Dry eyes occur when natural tears fail to keep the eyes properly lubricated.
Dry eyes can be an effect of aging, but can also occur in anyone at any age, due to:
- Dry climate or conditions
- Smoke exposure
- Reaction to medication
- Dry eye syndrome (a personal tendency to inherently have drier eyes than most people)
- Prolonged “screen time” (television, computer screen, or other electronic device usages)
- Hormonal changes
Because red light therapy increases hydration levels, it helps dry eyes. It is a simple, non-invasive, at-home remedy requiring no eye drops. Since it activates the body’s natural healing process, red light therapy offers longer-term results than drops.
Floaters (vitreous floaters) cause “floating” spots in your field of vision, usually appearing as tiny black flecks. Moving your eyes usually gets floaters out of the way, but only temporarily.
Vitreous is a gel-like substance that fills the area between the retina and the lens of the eyeball. With age, vitreous becomes less of a gel and more of a liquid. As the vitreous liquifies, bits of collagen gradually disconnect from the retina. This process is called vitreous syneresis, and the bits of detached collagen are the vitreous floaters.
Floaters are very common but they do not go away on their own. If a sudden onset of floaters disrupts vision or causes loss of peripheral vision, it is advisable to contact an eye specialist immediately as this can indicate a serious condition. If, however, floaters are a minor disturbance or annoyance, red light can help.
Red light therapy cannot cure floaters; however, it can prevent them or at least slow their progression. The stimulation of natural collagen production and increased cell energy resulting from red light therapy strengthens the body. The overall collagen quality and levels are enhanced, and the likelihood of further detachment of collagen bits from the retina is lowered.
A black eye is an appearance of bruising around the eye, meaning blood has collected and pooled under the skin around the eye. It is usually caused by physical trauma to the eye, but can also result from a surgical reaction, or a reaction to pressure change (from, for example, SCUBA-diving) causing broken blood vessels around the eyes.
Red light therapy can accelerate the healing of a black eye through its ability to promote better circulation. The body’s natural cell function is improved so healing time can be shortened, but there is no miracle cure for a black eye. A black eye will take longer to treat than just dark eye-circles because the level of trauma is greater.
Growing evidence shows that red light therapy may be useful in slowing or reversing the effects of certain vision-affecting eye diseases. Cellular and mitochondrial functions, both of which red light therapy enhances, are factors in all of these conditions.
- Glaucoma — a spectrum of diseases causing optic nerve damage and vision loss over time
- Cataracts — vision loss caused by clouding of the eyeball’s lens
- Macular Degeneration — gradual genetic visual impairment due to retinal deterioration
- Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) — the brain ceases to receive signals from one eye and its motion cannot be controlled
- Retinitis Pigmentosa — a genetic, retinal disorder causing loss of peripheral vision and sometimes blindness
Research and trials are underway to determine the potential of red light therapy in fighting or correcting these conditions.
What Devices Are Available for Red Light Eye Therapy?
Red light eye masks wrap around your face but cover only your eyes, leaving your forehead, nose, mouth, and jaw uncovered. Eye masks concentrate on and administer red light wavelengths only to the eye area. They focus only on eye issues, not other facial skin conditions.
Red light eye masks are also known to have pain-relieving qualities helpful for treating migraines and tension headaches.
Red light face masks cover your entire face and help with eye issues as well as skin conditions on the rest of your face.
Light Panels or Boxes
Panels and boxes are free-standing, usually placed on a table in front of you at a designated distance away. They distribute red light evenly to your face, treating your entire face rather than just your eyes.
The best device for you depends upon your symptoms, and whether your treatment needs are localized to your eyes, or more facially generalized.
Do Clinical Studies Prove the Efficacy of Red Light Therapy in Treating the Eyes?
Yes. Relevant documented research and trials include:
- A Controlled Trial for Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment (opens in a new tab)
- LLLT Improves Visual Acuity in Adolescent and Adult Patients With Amblyopia (opens in a new tab)
- LLLT in Patients With Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) (opens in a new tab)
- Aging Retinal Function Improvement (670 nm) (opens in a new tab)
- Near-Infrared Light Increases ATP in Aged Drosophila Melanogaster (opens in a new tab)
Whether eye condition is affected by age, the environment, or health factors, red light therapy can benefit individuals of all ages and skin types.
Red light therapy is a significant and compelling step forward in the world of eye and skin health care treatment.