Are we a step closer to treating AMD with red light?

Posted: Thursday 28 September 2023
Glen Jeffery in Laboratory

Red light has been shown to improve declining eyesight, with one particular study showing promise for patients diagnosed with dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Red light therapy was one of the many topics discussed at the Macular Disease Conference 2023 – Hope for the Future.

Professor Glen Jeffrey, from University College London’s Institute of Ophthalmology, gave an overview on what he described as the cells' battery system – mitochondria – and the ability of red light to recharge them as they age. Mitochondria are found more in the retina than anywhere else in the body because our eyes use a lot of energy.

Professor Jeffery was involved in a year-long study to assess the potential for red light to slow the progression of dry AMD.

Although the findings were inconclusive, because they were unable to assess patients for a long enough period of time, two-year results from a recent USA-based study showed that deep red light significantly reduced the rate of progression of intermediate AMD to late-stage dry AMD (otherwise known as geographic atrophy).

Talking about this LIGHTSITE III clinical trial, professor Jeffery said: “Very significantly, the patients that were selected had relatively early disease and it has shown with that team that the rate of geographic atrophy in the eye is reduced.

“It didn't stop the disease, which I think is a very important point, it didn't give people back what they'd lost, but it was reducing the rate at which cells were dying. And we know that red light can do that.”

There are a number of commercially-available red light devices for patients in the UK, however professor Jeffery has urged people to take caution before seeking them out. “Many are making unreasonable claims. You do have to be careful,” he said, insisting people should avoid any red light devices which include the word ‘laser’.

“This (red light) doesn’t solve AMD, some devices might help to slow it but we have to be very cautious and we have to keep our expectations relatively low,” he warned.

The benefits of red light treatment to boost mitochondria in general has been proven when used in the mornings, with exposure only needing to be for  three minutes, two or three times a week.

Watch Glen Jeffery's talk: Light therapies to improve declining eyesight

Catch up on the Macular Disease Conference 2023 – Hope for the Future

The entire Macular Society annual conference is available to watch online now, or you can choose to watch each session individually, such as professor Jeffery’s talk about red light.

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