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Red Light Therapy for Dementia Part 3: The Big List of Red Light Therapy Side Effects

Are there any side effects to red light therapy? Ask any scientist in the photobiomodulation (red light therapy) field, and they will (and do) say that red light therapy has no side effects. Study after study has yielded excellent results with no adverse effects. Nevertheless, there are a few cautions for people with epilepsy and photo sensitivities.
Dementia symptom improvements correlated with red light therapy in clinical trials and case reports include:
  • improved mood
  • less aggression
  • improved memory
  • greater brain blood flow
  • quicker understanding
  • more accurate recall
  • more accurate situational awareness
As with all therapies, there is no guarantee that every user will achieve the desired result. Here’s how to maximize your chances for success.

Red Light Therapy Side Effects: When Not to Do Red Light Therapy

Photosensitive medication and epilepsy can combine with red light therapy to produce unwanted effects. People with the following issues should consult with their doctor before using light:
  • Epilepsy: People with epilepsy and/or seizure disorders should consult with their doctors before doing “pulsing” light therapy. The pulsing can trigger seizures. Common pulse rates in brain lights are 10 Hz and 40 Hz.
  • Photosensitive Medications: Light therapy can trigger rashes, itching and swelling in people taking photosensitive medications. Consult your doctor.
  • Cancer: Whether a person with tumors or cancer should use therapy is controversial. It certainly alleviates mucositis and other radiation/chemo side effects. Consult your doctor.
  • Eye Disorders: Red light therapy actually improves vision and mitochondrial eye diseases, but it’s still important to check in with an ophthalmologist before using light when one has an eye disorder.
  • Pregnancy and Nursing: Red light therapy is probably safe and even helpful for pregnant women and nursing mothers, but there are no trials bearing out that opinion

The Big List of Red Light Therapy Side Effects

  • Pigmentation: Red light therapy usually smoothes pigmentation, but some people have the opposite reaction. If pigmentation spots occur during therapy for skin concerns, one can remove the infrared and add blue light instead. If they occur because of skin exposure during brain therapy, then the side effect is unimportant.
  • Eye Protection: Do not stare at infrared light for long periods. Infrared is safe, but even water can be harmful in large quantities.

How Not to Do Red Light Therapy

  • Do not use household lighting for therapy: it will probably be a waste of time
  • Do not use ultraviolet (UV) on yourself or any other living being: it might cause cancer
  • Keep taking Vitamin D during Red Light Therapy: Red and infrared do not trigger the production of Vitamin D

Can You Afford the Up Front and Continuing Costs of Red Light Therapy?

Brain light therapy devices cost between $475 and $2369. There are no continuing costs, outside charging the batteries. The upfront costs of other treatments? I don’t know, are there treatments that compare to red light therapy? That trigger neural connection growth? That significantly improve recall ability? Red light therapy does not require a doctor’s visit. It does not require a prescription. There are no repeat visits. There is no driving anywhere. Buy the light. Charge the battery. That’s it.

Don’t Buy a Red Light Device if Your Patient Won’t Use It

If you do red light therapy incorrectly, it does not work. Science has repeatedly shown that you need the right wavelengths in the right quantity to have a therapeutic effect. If your patient will do any of these, you probably should not buy a red light therapy device:
  • refuses the harness, hat, bucket, torch or nose clip
  • pulls the device off before time is up
  • agrees to treatment one day, but not on another
The device gives you the right wavelengths. Patient compliance gives you the right quantity of photons.

Potentially “Rent” a Red Light Device if You Predict Compliance Problems

Optionally, look at the return policy, and strategize around its requirements.
  • If the return policy is 100% money back even if you’ve used the device, you have nothing to lose.
  • If the return policy only applies to unused devices in their original packaging, then there is no return policy. How can you test a device without taking it out of the package?
  • If the return policy is 80% or 75% back even if you’ve used the device, then you are effectively renting the therapy in order to determine if it will work for your patient. The device company can’t give away their products to everyone who is unsure if their patients will comply. The re-stocking fee is a compromise effectively allowing you to rent the device.

Use these Pictures to Visualize Light Therapy Treatment

Devices designed to get photons to the brain come shapes has headgear, nose clips, neoprene wraps, and torches (flashlights). Brain light headgear options include:
  • a wire harness
  • a wrap
  • a helmet
  • a bucket
  • a head device (a hat, a wrap, a helmet, a bucket, or a wire harness) that shines on some combination of the forehead, sides of head, top of head and back of head
  • a nose clip that shines up the nasal passage
  • a torch (flashlight) that you point at the scalp and neck, and perhaps up the nose if you can manage it

The Neurowrap uses the same wavelengths and pulsation frequencies as those used in successful dementia and brain injury studies

The VieLight transcranial and intranasal device positions light modules on the head in strategic places for excellent therapeutic effects

You are likely to get “systemic” but not direct brain therapy from a panel. For penetration, the light should be on the scalp.

Red light through the nose is “systemic” therapy. Infrared through the nose is direct brain therapy.

This soft helmet is an ideal brain therapy device for elderly, weak and injured patients. The light reaches all parts of the head.

the iLED pad folds into a helmet for an ideal brain therapy experience. The soft material is comfortable and the device unfolds to work on any other part of the body.

The least expensive of these is a handmade bucket lined with commercial LEDs that you can buy from a red light therapy enthusiast in Australia. The most expensive is the Vielight Neuro Duo, backed by many clinical studies, clinical use. The Neuro Duo is a combination device that offers the abilities of the Neuro Alpha (pulsing at 10 Hz) and the Neuro Gamma (pulsing at 40 Hz). The Neuro Duo is a cheaper option than buying the Alpha and Gamma devices.

Will the Patient Comply with the Treatment Protocol?

Dose is extremely important in red light therapy. There is no point in doing RLT if the dose will be wrong due to patient constraints. Too little light has no effect. Too much light has no effect. You must follow the device’s directions to get the right amount of light. Treatment schedules are often one or two times per day, and from three to six days a week. Powerful lights have shorter treatment times. You have to consider whether the patient is able to comply with the schedule requirements. Finally, look at where the device touches the patient, and at how heavy it is likely to feel. Will the patient tolerate a helmet? A light clipped to their nose? A neoprene wrap around their forehead? Consider the material, weight, and feel of the device in order to find the one that will yield the highest compliance.
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