As we age, our eyesight gets worse3. The mitochondria inside of our eyes, which power the energy-intensive process of vision, work less efficiently over time, contributing to declining eyesight as we age5-8. Researchers have found that shining red light into the retina (the center of our eye) can slow or reverse the aging of mitochondria, improving eyesight and preventing vision loss as we age6.
Our vision systems let us see colors, shapes, and objects of any size incredibly quickly1,2. Cones, cells located in the retina, provide high-definition color vision1. Rods, located around the retina, provide low-light vision and let us track objects in motion2.
To give us high-speed, high-definition information about the world around us, our rods and cones need a constant supply of energy8. To create energy for vision, cells in and around our eyes use mitochondria8.
Mitochondria work overtime to keep our vision systems working, but this hard work takes a toll on these cellular structures5,8. Over time mitochondria suffer from oxidative stress, which can cause inflammation and health problems. As we age, mitochondria are affected by more oxidative stress and lose their ability to produce energy efficiently5.
The retina is packed with mitochondria and is extremely sensitive to aging8. As mitochondria lose their effectiveness in the eyes, we can suffer from vision loss, and the people, places, and things that we see may become blurry or hard to recognize8.
Treating vision loss at the cellular level has proven difficult, but researchers may have found a fast, side-effect free solution in light technology6.
Researchers found that low-level red light shined on the retina improved mitochondrial function within rods and cones, resulting in improved vision6.
The study that found these results recruited 24 adults from ages 28-72 years old6. Researchers measured the subject's color vision by presenting colored letters with low-contrast backgrounds and asking participants to identify which letters were shown6. In addition to color vision, the researchers also measured low light vision by having participants detect dim lights flashing in a dark setting6.
Researchers then gave subjects each a handheld red light device that they shone into their own dominant eye each day for two weeks6. After the two weeks were up, the subjects came back and re-measured their color vision and low light vision6. The red light device improved color vision in all subjects - especially in older (over 40 years old) adults6. The device also improved low light vision, and again had more benefits for older participants6.
To explain these promising results, the researchers believe that the type of red light emitted by the device reduced oxidative stress in subjects' retinas and increased the energy production of mitochondria in their rods and cones6. Previous studies have shown that restoring functioning in retinal mitochondria improves vision, and these scientists may have found a compact and easy way to achieve this restoration with red light 5,7,8.
More studies and data are needed to make definitive conclusions about red light to improve vision, but this pilot study shows that light technology is a promising avenue to improve eyesight and reduce vision loss with age4,6.
Restoring the health of mitochondria with light technology extends beyond treating vision loss - Light Therapy can help heal injuries, help muscles recover and improve health in the lungs and brain. To ask us any questions or get more information about light technology and Light Therapy, reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter to ask us questions about light technology and eyesight or about Light Therapy and photobiomodulation. For more scientific information and up-to-date light technology research, follow our blog!