Being four-eyed myself, I’d welcome any suggestion that could help me improve my eyesight without having to resort to expensive and terrifying Lasik surgery. According to a new University College London (UCL) study, staring at a deep red light for three minutes a day can significantly improve declining eyesight.
With the discovery, scientists believe that it could mean that affordable home-based eye therapy could help millions of people around the world with naturally declining vision. It would give people (like me) a new layer of protection against the natural ageing processes that steal our eyes’ sensitivity to light and ability to distinguish colours.
“As you age your visual system declines significantly, particularly once over 40. Your retinal sensitivity and your colour vision are both gradually undermined, and with an ageing population, this is an increasingly important issue. To try to stem or reverse this decline, we sought to reboot the retina’s ageing cells with short bursts of longwave light,” said Professor Glen Jeffery, the lead author of the study at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.
How was the study tested?
A small pilot study was held to test the concept. Researchers recruited 12 men and 12 women (who had no ocular disease), whose ages ranged from 28 to 72. Each participant was given a small handheld flashlight that emitted a red light with a wavelength of 670 nanometers.
They then spent three minutes each day looking into the light over a period of two weeks. The study found that the 670 nanometer light had no impact in younger individuals, but for those around 40 years and over, they’ve noticed significant improvements.
Cone colour contrast sensitivity (the ability to detect colours) improved by up to 20% in some people aged around 40 and over. For rod sensitivity (the ability to see in low light), those around the same age saw improvements as well—though less than colour contrast. Study participants under 40 also experienced some improvement, but didn’t see the same jump as older subjects—as younger eyes haven’t declined as much as older eyes.
Glen Jeffery also mentioned that the red lights they used are safe and have found no ill effects. However, Dr. Raj Maturi, an associate professor at Indiana University School of Medicine, wasn’t ready to embrace the idea.
“The data set could be brought down by three or four subjects,” he noted.
The pilot study was small and only included 24 participants. To really test these insights, it’ll take a double-blind controlled study with a larger group of subjects and longer monitoring over time.