Aging vision significantly improved by 'recharging' daily with red light

The retina found within one's eye ages alongside the rest of the body, slowly resulting in a degradation of vision that can be substantial by late life. A new study has found a promising at-home way to slow down or possibly even reverse this decline, however, and it involves ordinary red light. According to the researchers, it only takes a few minutes of daily light exposure to experience positive effects.

Most studies involving vision and light revolve around blue light and its potential negative impact on cells in the retina, leading to vision loss over time. This new study, which comes from University College London and was recently published in Journals of Gerontology, instead focuses on red light and its potential therapeutic effects on aging vision.

Aging retinas impact everyone, but are particularly problematic in one's older years. According to researchers, retinal aging starts around the age of 40 in humans — and, in fact, it ages faster than other organs in the body due to the cells' high energy needs and mitochondrial density. As the amount of energy available to these cells drops, so does the photoreceptor functionality.

By the time someone reaches age 65 or older, their eyesight may have declined significantly as a consequence of this natural aging process...something daily red light therapy may help slow down or fix. Based on existing past studies that involved various animal models like mice, the new research tested the effects of this light on human eyes.

The study involved 12 men and 12 women ages 28 to 72 who did not have any eye diseases at the time of the study. The researchers tested the participants' eyes specifically for the sensitivity of the cones and rods. After testing, the participants were given an LED flashlight that had a 670nm 'deep red' light beam.

The participants were told to stare into this light for three minutes per day over the course of two weeks. Though younger participants didn't experience much change from this, the older volunteers (roughly starting around age 40) experience 'significant improvements' as a result. Some participants experienced up to a 20-percent increase in their ability to detect colors, particularly the blue shades that are most vulnerable to damage over time.

The light is described as 'recharging' the energy driving retina cells, boosting vision as a result. This could prove to be an effect home treatment option for age-related vision decline — the researchers note that the light they used only cost around $15 USD.