Red Light Therapy for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Red Light Therapy for Alzheimer's and Dementia

As machines deteriorate over time, so do our bodies. As you age, certain cells in your brain get damaged. That is why aging individuals are more likely to experience memory and cognitive problems. Alzheimer’s and dementia are two health concerns that affect memory, reasoning, and even a person’s daily activities. 

Before diving deep into how they affect human beings and what possible treatment options are available, it is important to know what they are and how they differ from one another.

An Overview of Alzheimer’s and Dementia 

Alzheimer’s disease is the degeneration or deterioration of the brain that causes disruptions in memory, cognitive abilities, personality, and other functions. This disease may eventually lead to death as a result of complications. Some experts describe Alzheimer’s as “fatal brain failure” rather than a mental ailment. 

Dementia, on the other hand, is a general term used to describe a collection of symptoms that affect memory, thinking, communication, focus, and behavior. 

Alzheimer’s is one of the leading causes of dementia today and contributes to 60–80% of overall cases [1]. Several other problems such as the deficiency of vitamin D, stroke, brain tumors, and thyroid issues may also cause dementia [2].

The statistics regarding the global prevalence of Alzheimer’s and dementia are quite alarming. Nearly 50 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s or related dementia, with 10 new cases developing each year [3, 4]. Due to declining brain function, older people are more prone to dementia. Dementia affects not just the individual who has it, but also those around them. 

Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, appears to be more dangerous than breast and prostate cancer. A global crisis, here are some more facts about Alzheimers [5, 6]:

  • Every 3 seconds, someone in the world develops dementia. 
  •  More than 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s.
  • 1 out of 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. 
  • By 2050, the costs for Alzheimer’s and other dementias could increase to $1.1 trillion.

Current Treatment Options for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s is an irreversible disease and Alzheimer’s recovery with any drug is nearly impossible. However, medication is still helpful since it may slow down Alzheimer’s symptoms and can help people perform their routine tasks as long as they are taking those drugs. 

Also, the effectiveness of those medications will depend on the stage of the disease. The effectiveness of a medication may also diminish over time. Furthermore, these medications come with side effects that can be dangerous for elderly people. These known side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, a loss of appetite, indigestion, muscle weakness, and fatigue [7]. 

Several other options that slow down cognitive decline and help manage the disease include cognitive training, nutritional counseling, and physical activity [8]. 

A clinically proven natural dementia treatment for Alzheimer’s and dementia without side effects is the use of red light therapy (RLT). This therapy allows the brain cells to reactivate and it solves problems that are associated with dementia such as sleeplessness, memory loss, and depression. Therefore, red light therapy for Alzheimer’s and memory therapy for dementia with light is considered a promising treatment.

Research Studies Show the Positive Effects of RLT for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

A 2014 study explored the neuroprotective effect of near infrared light treatment using mouse models. The treatment was administered at an age when the substantial disease is present in the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of brain tissue. Using  (670 nm) wavelength, near infrared treatment was given to the study group for 20 times over a four-week period. The results clearly indicated that  near infrared may have potential as an effective non-invasive intervention for mitigating and even reversing progressive brain degenerations [9].

The Use of Red and Near-Infrared Light Stimulates Healing and Prevents Brain Tissue from Dying

The brain is the most important part of your body yet it could be affected by traumatic injuries, degenerative diseases, and other psychological problems such as depression. 

There are a number of studies confirming the potential benefits of red and near-infrared light to stimulate and protect injured or degenerating tissues that are at risk of dying.  

A study reviewed the effectiveness of transcranial photobiomodulation  on traumatic brain injury (TBI). The results suggested that there is considerable evidence on the efficacy of PBM for improving memory, verbal learning, attention, and executive functions in patients with TBI. 633nm red light and 870nm near-infrared light were used as treatments. 

The finding also suggested that PBM appears to be a safe, well-tolerated and promising treatment for depression which is also related to dementia and Alzheimer’s [10]. Several devices nowadays are available that are used for this purpose including infrared light therapy helmet. 

Effect of  Photobiomodulation on Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Another study investigated whether near-infrared photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy would improve patients with mild to moderately severe dementia or possible Alzheimer’s disease. The sample of the study was composed of five patients who had mild to moderately severe cognitive impairment. These patients received 12 weeks of active treatment and  a 4-week follow-up period (without treatment) The results showed that that 12 weeks of PBM improved sleep quality, function, and anxiety without negative side effects. Therefore, PBM has potential as a home treatment of patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease [11].

Efficacy of 630-nm Red Light on Cognitive Function in Older Adults 

The cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) occurs due to the buildup  of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a kind of gas generated during normal metabolism within the human body. Its concentrations in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid increases with age. Post-mortem Alzheimer’s patients also show to have higher concentrations of formaldehyde. As a neurotoxin, it  affects memory, learning, and behavior. 

A report revealed that red light treatment (RLT) improved memory in Alzheimer’s disease. The researcher developed a medical RLT device to study the efficacy as well as the safety of this device in older adults suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The RLT group received treatment for 5 days a week for 24 weeks and the duration was 30 minutes each time, whereas the other group did not receive the RLT treatment. There was reasonable evidence regarding the beneficial effect of  RLT on Alzheimer’s. LED light therapy for Alzheimer’s appeared to be a safe and effective treatment [12]. 

Red Light Treatment Improves Memory Recovery

A study was conducted to determine whether red light 630 ± 15 nm improves memory in a mouse sample of age-related dementia. The results showed that not only did the therapy prevent early-stage memory decline, but it also helped in late-stage memory deficit by reducing oxidative stress. Also, the therapy had high tissue penetration and low toxicity [13]. Thus, light therapy for dementia patients is a safe and effective option.

Conclusion

Based on the discussion in this article, we can come to a conclusion that red light therapy is a non-invasive solution for Alzheimer’s and dementia which are prevalent today. Light therapy for dementia improves cognitive behavior, memory, and other associated symptoms of Alzehmeirs and dementia. 

If red light therapy is applied during the early stages of the disease, it will slow down the process of brain degeneration. It’s desirable as it has no side effects and can be safely used with the other pharmacological treatments and therapies. Also, red light therapy for dementia remains the most cost-effective cognitive therapy nowadays. Conventional medication, on the other hand, is more expensive and has side effects. 


References:

  1. Weller J & Budson A. Current understanding of Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and treatment. 2018 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6073093/
  2.  National Institute on Aging. What Is Dementia? Symptoms, Types, and Diagnosis. 2017 – https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-dementia-symptoms-types-and-diagnosis
  3. Alzhemiers.net.  2019 Alzheimer’s Statistics- https://www.alzheimers.net/resources/alzheimers-statistics
  4. World Health Organization. Dementia .2020 – https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia#:~:text=Worldwide%2C%20around%2050%20million%20people,60%E2%80%9370%25%20of%20cases.
  5. Alzehmiers Association. Alzemhiers and Demetia, Facts and Figuers – https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures
  6. Alzheimer’s Disease International. Dementia statistics – https://www.alz.co.uk/research/statistics#:~:text=Someone%20in%20the%20world%20develops,and%20131.5%20million%20in%202050.
  7.   National Institute on Aging. How is How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Treated?. 2018 – https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/how-alzheimers-disease-treated#:~:text=Medications%20called%20cholinesterase%20inhibitors%20are,and%20Aricept%C2%AE%20
  8. Rakesh G et al. Strategies for dementia prevention: latest evidence and implications. 2017 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5546647/
  9. Purushothuman et al. Photobiomodulation with near infrared light mitigates Alzheimer’s disease-related pathology in cerebral cortex – evidence from two transgenic mouse models.2014 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3978916/
  10. Cassano P. et al. Review of transcranial photobiomodulation for major depressive disorder: targeting brain metabolism, inflammation, oxidative stress, and neurogenesis. Neurophotonics. 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4777909/
  11. Saltmarche AE et al. Significant Improvement in Cognition in Mild to Moderately Severe Dementia Cases Treated with Transcranial Plus Intranasal Photobiomodulation: Case Series Report. 2017 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28186867/
  12. Huang N et al. Safety and Efficacy of 630-nm Red Light on Cognitive Function in Older Adults With Mild to Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease: Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Study. 2020 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7253693/
  13. Zhang J et al. Illumination with 630 nm Red Light Reduces Oxidative Stress and Restores Memory by Photo-Activating Catalase and Formaldehyde Dehydrogenase in SAMP8 Mice. 2019 –  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29869529/

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