Red Light Therapy and Eye Safety at HomeLast Updated:
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Is Red Light Therapy Safe for Eyes?
There is a lot of confusing information out there about the possible effects of looking directly at certain kinds and colors of light. To be clear, you never want to look directly at blue, violet, and UV light wavelengths (200nm-480nm). Doing so could cause damage to your cornea, retina, or both. That means it would not be a good idea to stare directly at the sunlight or the light bulbs in your house.
With that said, there is evidence that some kinds of red light can actually help your vision. In fact, there are more than a few people out there that have received the benefits of red light therapy and improved their eyesight after just a few treatments. Is it always beneficial or can it be harmful and bad for eyes?
Understanding How the Eyes Process Light
Before learning about the potential benefits of red light therapy on vision and overall eye health, a discussion about the role color plays in vision would seem to be prudent.
As humans, we rely very heavily on our ability to see. It helps give us a clearer perspective of the world we see. The truth is we don’t really see images, we see groups of color that create images.
Remember, the eyes are the most vulnerable and delicate organs in our body. They are easy to damage and difficult to fix. As anyone without eyesight will tell you, life is very different and difficult without good eyesight. People can find ways to make do, but there is nothing that rivals being able to see the world as it is.
When you are looking at objects, you have the ability to differentiate between literally millions of colors. You also have the ability to detect light between the wavelengths of 400nm and 700nm. What we don’t have is the ability to detect infrared light (as used in infrared light therapy), UV radiation, and microwaves.
It should not surprise you to learn that the eyes are simply a conglomerate of different types of cells. The most predominate types of cells include:
- rod cells to detect light intensity
- cone cells to detect color
- epithelial cells
- humor producing cells
- collagen producing cells
Is infrared light safe for eyes?
Yes and No. Some near red infrared wavelengths like 780nm, 810nm and 830nm have shown to benefit various eye conditions. Most red light therapy devices don’t emit wavelengths over 850nm.
But natural infrared wavelength goes all the way upto 1400nm. Infrared wavelengths over 850nm have shown to develop cataract over long and direct exposure.
Having said that, with a red light therapy regimen of 5-30 minute use per day, you have nothing to worry about.
Red Light and Its Effects on Mitochondria
The primary function of mitochondria in the human body is to create energy. The energy that it creates helps cells grow and initiates body activity. In case you are wondering, the highest concentration of mitochondria is in the eyes. Without getting too technical, the mitochondria’s relationship to vision is it keeps the above cells regenerating, which helps to ensure people can go on seeing.
What does red light do to your eyes?
The retina in particular needs a lot of energy for proper function. When red light therapy is applied to this part of the human body, it helps keep the cells in the cornea and retina regenerating all the time. How does it do that?
The mitochondria are collectively like a generator that creates energy. The red light serves as a form of gasoline that helps the generator work. Researchers have found that the loss of vision is closely tied to mitochondrial dysfunction. Red light therapy serves to promote proper function within the mitochondrial, which sometimes translates to better eyesight for the individual going through the therapeutic process.
The Best Light Wavelengths
Above, we stated that humans typically see light wavelengths that measure between 400nm and 700nm. Most lasers and LEDs, the sources of red light, put off light wavelengths at about 670nm. That falls well within the scope of what humans can detect. By the way, other light wavelengths that seem to be beneficial are 630nm, 780nm, 810nm & 830nm.
Focusing back on eye cellular structure, there are specific cones in your eye that detect the color red. When the eye detects the color red, the mitochondria in those cones get their gasoline and start generating new healthy cells. Red light therapy depends on LED lights to stimulate this growth activity. It’s important to note that lasers are not good for this type of red light therapy. The intensity of the light is too much to bear for the human eye.
Can Red Light Therapy damage eyes?
The concern that comes with red light therapy is the power density of the red light the therapist is going to use. Researchers have found that the eyes respond to red light therapy in much the same way as the skin. That would mean that a therapist should be able to get the desired results with a power density of about 50mW/cm2 at doses of about 10J/cm2 or less. However, if the power density is substantially increased or if the exposure is for very long periods of time, then red light therapy can cause eye damage.
Does red light therapy require eye protection?
Although red light therapy is safe for your eyes, it is advised to wear protective glasses if your red light therapy sessions are long or if you’re too close to a powerful source of red or near infrared light.
Having said that, for red light therapy at home devices, you don’t have to use protective eye-wear.
How can I protect my eyes from red light therapy?
Use the protective glasses for prolonged exposure to powerful red light. You can also close your eyes if you wish. If you’re sensitive to bright light, you may wear your regular sunglasses for comfort.
Eye Conditions that Improve From Red Light Therapy
In case you are wondering, there are quite a few eye conditions that seem to improve with red light therapy. The list of these conditions include, but is not limited to:
- Visual acuity
- Diabetic Retinopathy
- Macular Degeneration – aka AMD or age-related macular degeneration
- Dry eye syndrome
- Refractive Errors
Hopefully, you can now see the potential benefits of red light therapy on your eyesight and overall eye health. Going through life with hurt eyes is never fun and always a problem. With a regular schedule of red light therapy, there is a good chance you can improve your eye health.