Red Light Therapy and the Eyes: Overview
The benefits of red light therapy for health are far ranging, and you may wonder if this includes improving vision and treating eye conditions. Is red light therapy good for the eyes?
In fact, LED light has many benefits for ocular health, and you can experience them from the comfort of your own home with one of our superior devices. You can employ red light for eyesight enhancement, treating eye conditions like glaucoma and cataracts, slowing macular degeneration, and eliminating issues like dry eyes or floaters, among other benefits.
It doesn’t end there, though, because LED light therapy can also offer amazing cosmetic benefits to the eyes, stimulating the production of collagen and elastin to tighten and smooth crow’s feet, fine lines, and wrinkles. It may also promote hair growth for thicker eyebrows.
Using red LED light therapy, wrinkles diminish, and puffy, red eyes go back to looking fresh and healthy. The light also improves circulation, helping to fade dark circles.
Whether your purpose is cosmetic or related to your eye health and vision, regular, short treatments with LED light can offer great advantages. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the use of red light therapy for eyes using at home devices.
The Physiology of the Eyes
The eyes are like our own personal camera to the world, absorbing wavelengths of light in colors that make up the visual spectrum like black, white, red, green, and blue. The eyes can perceive wavelengths from about 400-700 nm. Light enters the cornea through the pupils, with the iris controlling the amount of light absorbed.
The light then passes through the lens, which helps to focus it on the retina. Once the light enters the retina, photoreceptor cells transform it into electrical energy, which travels to the optic nerve of the brain. The brain interprets the electrical signals and transforms them into images.
In a December 2001 interview, Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine Dr. Torsten Wiesel provided his thoughts on the visual process:
Of course it’s a very complex thing you’re asking the brain to do, because we can see details, color, depth, moving objects, etc.
Your camera cannot move without getting a slur in the image that is unclear, whereas your eye can move from one part of the room to another and still everything is clear. So this is a very complex machine that can carry out all these various functions… 
In order to turn the light into electrical energy, the cells in the eyes require a tremendous amount of energy. The ocular cells derive this energy from the ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which the mitochondria of the cells synthesize.
The cells in the eyes include rod cells, which perceive cell intensity, and cones which perceive color, as well as epithelial cells, collagen producing cells, and humor producing cells.
The cells require a huge amount of ATP in order to produce the energy required for vision. When the photoreceptor cells do not receive an adequate amount, visual problems can occur, and eyesight may decline.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work in the Eyes?
As we explained in our review of Platinum LED Lights, red light therapy sends photons of light into the mitochondria of the eyes, stimulating the production of higher levels of ATP.
The eyes have very high concentrations of mitochondria, so the resulting increase in adenosine triphosphate produces a large increase in cellular energy. An article in Eye Brain by Margaret Wong-Riley discussed in detail the energy metabolism of the visual system .
This increased in energy may help improve eyesight, decrease redness and inflammation, repair damage, heal wounds and scars, and help prevent and heal different eye conditions and diseases.
It also has cosmetic benefits like boosting collagen and elastin levels, tightening the skin, and improving the appearance of fine lines and crow’s feet. Red light therapy under eyes may decrease puffiness and dark circles.
What Are the Optimal Wavelengths For Treating the Eyes?
The best wavelengths for improving eye health fall in the middle of the human eye’s visual spectrum, which is 400nm to 700nm.
This means that red light at about 630nm is particularly optimal for ocular benefits. The red cones in your eyes detect the red color and they immediately signal the mitochondria to produce additional ATP.
Infrared light also has benefits for the eyes at wavelengths of 780nm, 810nm and 830nm. However, beyond this the light could damage the eyes, and experts do not recommended it.
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Is Red Light Therapy Safe for Eyes?
LED red light therapy for the eyes is safe, as well as infrared light at the wavelengths we have stipulated. Certainly at treatment times of 5 minutes daily there is no risk, however, if you feel more comfortable you can use protective eyewear.
In addition to the wavelength, the irradiance is relevant in terms of the safety of the device. Whether at home or in a clinic, the power density should not be higher than 50mW/cm2 with doses under 10J/cm2.
It’s important to note that only LED lights are safe for the eyes – but not lasers. Using a laser in the eyes can lead to considerable damage.
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Red Light Therapy: Eyes Open or Closed?
While there are no serious dangers related to having your eyes open, it’s best to keep them closed. The skin around the eyes is very thin, so it is not an impediment to the red light passing through. Keeping your eyes closed may allow for better light scatter when the light travels through.
Benefits of Red Light Therapy for Ocular Health
Red LED light therapy for eyes has a number of wide ranging benefits, from eliminating cosmetic signs of age, to sharpening vision, to helping to heal chronic conditions. These are some of its most powerful applications in ocular health.
Our vision depends largely upon having adequate levels of ATP to generate cellular energy for the photoreceptors. As levels of ATP tend to decrease with age, this could cause deficits in eyesight in elderly individuals.
As a result, the increase in mitochondrial stimulation and ATP levels provided by red light therapy may improve vision and visual clarity. The LED lights help the mitochondria to respond to light at a higher wavelength, which may also enhance color differentiation.
A 2012 study published in Scientific Reports by Harpreet Shinhmar, Chris Hogg, Magella Neveu & Glen Jeffery showed that single 3 minute exposures of 670 nm red light for eyes improved mitochondrial function and enhanced color vision in older subjects. They further concluded that the benefits were most powerful in the morning .
This refers to the growth of new blood vessels from an existing vascular tree in the retina, which increases vascular permeability to put you at risk for several eye diseases.
Red light therapy may help to modulate angiogenesis, repair damage to the blood vessels, and reduce vascular permeability.
Floaters are black dots or specs in front of your visual field, and they result when the vitreous gel in the retina begins to shed small pieces of collagen. There’s no real cure for this issue, but red light therapy may prevent it from progressing.
- Dry Eyes
Some people experience dry eyes, which is largely from a lack of proper moisture. Red light therapy for dry eyes may boost levels of hyaluronic acid, for improved lubrication and alleviation from dryness.
- Black Eye
A black eye occurs when blood vessels around the area break, and blood pools there for a bruised appearance. This usually occurs due to physical injury or as a post-surgery reaction. Light therapy improves circulation to the area, which may speed up the healing process.
- Corneal Injury
There’s some evidence that light therapy can decrease the inflammation associated with corneal scratches or tears, and it may help speed up the healing process.
Cataracts are a cloudy film which develops in the lens of the eye, marring vision, and they are common in elderly people. Red light therapy may help improve eyesight in individuals with cataracts.
While there is little research as of yet on this issue specifically, studies show its ability to decrease inflammation, improve eyesight, and lower oxidative stress to repair damage to the eye.
The term glaucoma refers to several similar conditions which cause an increase in pressure in the eyes, damaging the optic nerve and cells. Glaucoma causes eyesight loss and may potentially progress to blindness. There is no cure, but LED light therapy could help to manage the disease.
The technology may provide neuroprotective benefits, reducing damage from the increased pressure in the eye. A review published in Applied Sciences by Loredana Bergandi, et al examined the research on the potential of red and infrared light therapy in providing glaucoma neuroprotection .
- Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)
Lazy eye, or amblyopia, is a condition which affects infants during their early development, and it occurs in one eye. It causes progressive retinal deterioration which impacts vision, and there’s no cure past a critical time in childhood development.
However, a review in the International Journal of Ophthalmology by Ivayla I. Geneva cited research showing that red light showed promise in decreasing damage and improving vision in amblyopia patients, and in particular those under the age of 18 .
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration
According to the National Institutes of Health, age-related macular degeneration is an eye disease where there is progressive damage to the macula in the retina, which plays a key role in vision directly ahead of you .
For macular degeneration, red light therapy increases cellular energy in the retina, helping to repair the damage and slow the progression of the condition.
A study published in Acta Ophthalmologica by Graham F. Merry and Marion R. Munk, et al showed that macular degeneration red light treatment improved visual acuity and contrast sensitivity in patients with dry age-related macular degeneration .
- Retinitis Pigmentosa
Retinitis Pigmentosa refers to several inherited conditions which cause progressive deterioration of the retina, for an impairment in vision. High levels of oxidative stress lead to faster disease progression.
While there’s little research on the use of red light retinal rejuvenation therapy in treating this specific condition, a PhD thesis by Sandeep Gopalakrishnan published for the University of Milwaukee showed that LED light can decrease oxidative stress and retinal cell death in rats .
- Retinopathy of Prematurity
This is a condition which sometimes occurs in premature infants, and it involves the development of abnormal blood vessels in the retina. It may lead to serious vision loss, and in some cases blindness.
Physicians sometimes give underdeveloped infants oxygen for respiratory difficulties, which on occasion causes this issue. While there is no research on this condition specifically, general studies that show the impact of red light therapy on slowing retinal degeneration point to a possible benefit.
- Optic Nerve Injury
Red light therapy may show promise in healing optic nerve injury, which occurs due to pressure or trauma to the nerve. A study by Melinda Fitzgerald and Carole A Bartlett published in the Journal of Neurotrauma concluded that infrared light reduced oxidative stress and prevented damage to the cells following an ocular nerve injury .
As a study by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology demonstrated, red light therapy increases the synthesis of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid . The higher levels of these two key proteins may promote tighter, more elastic skin around the eyes.
This helps to smooth crow’s feet, wrinkles and lines, and scars. It makes the skin stronger and less fragile. The boost in hyaluronic acid moisturizes the skin, eliminates dryness, and plumps to further smooth signs of age.
The red light also stimulates cell renewal for a fresher, healthier eye area, and it enhances blood flow to reduce dark circles. In addition, the LEDs may help to reduce redness and inflammation in the area, and fade dark spots.
- Healing Wounds and Blemishes
The massive increase in cellular energy generated by the LED lights promotes healing benefits, repairing wounds and blemishes around the eyes and decreasing redness and inflammation.
A study published in the International Journal of Photoenergy by Myung-Sun Kim and Yong-Ick Cho, et al showed the wound healing potential of a 660nm LED light, demonstrating that it increased cell proliferation and migration .
- Growing the Eyebrow Hair
If you are using a facial mask, light therapy may also help to thicken your eyebrow hair and prevent shedding. The boost in collagen strengthens the hair and follicles and helps promote growth. The treatment also improves blood flow, bringing oxygen and nutrients to the follicles.
What LED Light Products Exist for Use on the Eyes?
How to use red light therapy for eyes? One option is to go to a dermatology clinic for treatment, but you can also purchase a device to do red light therapy for eyes at home. There are a few different options available to you, depending on your goals and preferences.
You can use a small panel either placed on a flat surface or mounted on a wall or door so that it’s level with your face. With this device, the LED light impacts your entire face as well as your eyes for more general treatment.
This is a good option if you are also looking for cosmetic red light therapy benefits for your skin. However, some people prefer a device more focused specifically on the eyes.
2. Eye Masks
Probably the best red light therapy for eyes is a LED face mask, as the treatment focuses specifically on the area. You can purchase one which your wear on your face but where the light is only over the eyes. They do not offer cosmetic benefits, but may help with other health issues like decreasing headaches.
3. Face Masks
There are a number of facial masks on the market which are mostly intended for cosmetic benefits to the face and the area around the eyes.
They may improve circulation to decrease dark circles, tighten the area to smooth wrinkles, decrease inflammation, and thicken the eyebrow hair. Most of these masks do not treat the eyes themselves. Have a look at some of the most effective red light masks in our article of recommended products.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is Red Light Therapy Good For The Eyes?
A: Yes, red light therapy has a wide range of benefits for improving eyesight, helping to heal eye conditions and diseases, reducing redness and inflammation, and slowing vision loss.
Q: How Often Should You Do Red Light Therapy For Eyes?
A: When it comes to using LED light on the eyes, you should avoid prolonged or intense exposure. The treatments should be short, 2 to 5 minute sessions. Carry out the treatments either once a day or once every second day.
Q: Red Light Therapy For Eyes: Where to Buy?
A: You can purchase red light therapy for eyes at home devices including panels, eyes masks, and face masks from a number of online retailers and stores.
Q: Do I Need To Wear Goggles With Red Light Therapy?
A: Although LED light therapy in short sessions is safe for the eyes, longer treatments or high power red and infrared light may run some risk.
You don’t have to wear goggles when using red light therapy for eyes at home, but if you want to be extra safe you may do so. Most devices include these as part of your package.
Q: What Color Light Is Best For Eyes?
A: The optimal colors for the eyes are red, and some of the lower infrared wavelengths. The evidence suggest that the best wavelengths are 630, 780, 810, and 830nm.
Higher infrared wavelengths may cause damage to the retina, so you should not treat your eyes with anything over 830nm LEDs.
Q: Does Red Light Therapy Help Dark Circles?
A: Red light therapy enhances vasodilation and blood flow, and the improved circulation around the eyes can help to fade dark circles. The red light also boosts the production of collagen and elastin, which makes the skin around the eyes thicker and healthier and improves skin tone.
Is red light therapy effective in improving eye health? This technology has much to offer people who want to improve their vision, or who are suffering from eye diseases or conditions. It also has cosmetic benefits like decreasing puffiness and dark circles, tightening the skin, and smoothing crow’s feet and wrinkles.
If you follow the correct directions for use, session timing, frequency, and distance from the panel, this is a safe method with significant advantages to ocular health. Customer reviews of panels and facial masks from some of our best red light therapy device for pain and home use cite great improvements in eyesight and overall visual health.
All of the devices that we recommend are FDA cleared, manufactured according to strict standards, and safe to use. Look through some of your options so you can start seeing the world more clearly, as soon as possible!